Racial Profiling Guidance: “Useful First Step” on the Road to Enacting Comprehensive Federal Legislation

Media 06.18.03

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Calling the Department of Justice’s recently released guidance on racial profiling a “useful first step” that “falls far short of what is needed,” the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today urged Congress to enact comprehensive federal legislation that would truly prohibit racial profiling in America.

“While the guidance issued by the Department of Justice yesterday is a useful first step toward enactment of federal anti-profiling legislation, it falls far short of what is needed to fulfill the President’s promise to end racial profiling in America,” said LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson.

“We are pleased to see that the guidance includes a definition of profiling that prohibits the police from relying to any degree on race or ethnicity in routine law enforcement activities, except in response to a specific suspect description,” said Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau. “Since this is the definition proposed in the End Racial Profiling Act, introduced in the last Congress by Representative John Conyers and Senator Russ Feingold, we anticipate the Department of Justice’s support in moving this crucial legislation through the 108th Congress to address the more comprehensive concerns around egregious profiling practices not covered by this guidance.”

Henderson stated, “The guidance falls far short of what is needed in four important ways. First, it does not apply to state and local police, who are more likely than federal agents to engage in routine law enforcement activities, such as traffic and pedestrian stops. Second, the guidance includes no mechanism for enforcement of the new policy, leaving victims of profiling without a remedy. Third, there is no requirement of data collection to monitor the government’s progress toward eliminating profiling. And finally, the guidance includes broad and vaguely worded ‘national security’ and ‘border’ exemptions that could swallow the rule. Many in the Latino, Arab, Muslim, African, and South Asian communities will remain targets of unjustified law enforcement action based on race or ethnicity.”

“The two federal agencies that have been most likely to engage in profiling, the INS and the Customs Service, appear to be wholly exempt from this policy,” said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza. “That is unacceptable.”

“The Justice Department’s guidelines are glaringly incomplete,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. “Without a means of enforcement, by allowing targets to be chosen by religion and national origin, and by carving out an exception that easily swallows the rule, the attorney general ignores the president’s promise to end racial profiling. Once again we see the evidence that we need federal legislation to end profiling, and we need it now.”

“Racial profiling continues to flourish. In order to combat it, we need comprehensive federal legislation, not a limited guidance with big loopholes,” concluded Henderson. “We urge Congress to act to end racial and ethnic profiling by enacting a bill that builds on the administration’s definition, closes the loopholes, and provides a remedy for victims of this discredited practice.”

Related Links