Senate Democrats late last week introduced legislation that would prohibit the practice of racial profiling at all levels of government. The End Racial Profiling Act is aimed at completely eliminating practices that Democrats say demonizes people with certain racial or religious backgrounds, and also yields little in the way of results.
“Racial profiling is ineffective,” said lead sponsor Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “The more resources that are spent investigating individuals solely because of their race or religion, the fewer resources are being directed at suspects actually demonstrating illegal behavior.”
The bill, S. 1670, would prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, local and tribal level, and would make the prohibition enforceable through a court order. It would also mandate training to ensure law enforcement divisions cease racial profiling, and conditions federal funding for law enforcement programs on the adoption of anti-racial profiling guidelines.
According to a summary, the bill defines racial profiling as the practice of relying on “race, ethnicity, religion or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities” such as traffic stops, body searches and other inspections.
Racial profiling is also defined as using race, ethnicity, religion or national origin to decide on the scope and substance of law enforcement activity following an initial investigation. However, the bill would allow law enforcement officers to use those factors to define the scope of their work when there is “credible evidence” linking people with certain characteristics to a crime.
Cardin said racial profiling “perpetuates negative stereotypes” based on race and other factors, and criticized this year’s hearings held by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on the radicalization of American Muslims.
“This spectacle crossed the line and chipped away at the religious freedoms and civil liberties we hold so dearly,” he said. “Radicalization may be the appropriate subject of a congressional hearing but not when it is limited to one religion. When that is done, it sends the wrong message to the public and casts a religion with unfounded suspicions.”
Cardin’s bill is co-sponsored by nine other Senate Democrats, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Cardin said House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) is expected to introduce a House companion bill.