WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) hosted a high-level panel of civil rights and legal experts Tuesday to review current law and practices of discriminatory profiling by law enforcement. At the center of the briefing was a call for Attorney General Eric Holder to strengthen guidance to local, state and federal law enforcement on banning profiling, as well as the need for a more permanent fix through passage of Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 1038, the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). The legislation, which is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would prohibit the use of profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion and national origin by law enforcement agencies, as well as provide resources for training and gather data on such activity.
“How many more Michael Browns’ will we have? How many more Trayvon Martins? We all know racial profiling is un-American and wrong. We also know that it is a waste of time and resources. We know it turns communities against law enforcement. But we also know it can be deadly, and therefore has to end,” said Senator Cardin.
“I have been proud to partner with Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Bobby Scott on the End Racial Profiling Act. We have been working on this for years. Recent tragedies have brought new interest and fresh momentum toward making this law,” added Senator Cardin. “While we await further Congressional action, Attorney General Holder should move to end discriminatory profiling using what tools he has by immediately revising the Justice Department’s guidance to law enforcement.”
Senator Cardin’s legislation (ERPA) builds upon the Justice Department’s “Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies” issued in 2003. ERPA clearly defines racial profiling to include race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion as protected classes. It requires additional training of law enforcement officers to better educate them on the differences between specific suspect descriptions and sweeping generalizations or profiling. It also creates better procedures for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints. It also creates an exception for the use of these factors where there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality and time frame, which links persons of a particular race, ethnicity, or national origin to an identified incident or scheme.
The ERPA briefing was moderated by Hilary Shelton (NAACP Washington Bureau Senior VP for Advocacy and Policy). Speakers included Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.-3), Laura W. Murphy (Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office) and Nancy Zirkin (Executive Vice President for Policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights). Panelists included attorney for the Martin and Brown families Benjamin Crump (Attorney, Parks and Crump Attorneys at Law), Chief John I. Dixon III (Petersburg, Virginia Police Department), Phillip Atiba Goff (President, Center for Policing Equity) and Anthony Rothert (Legal Director, ACLU of Missouri).