New Anti-Profiling Bills Reaffirm Commitment to Civil Rights & Security

Media 03.3.04

WASHINGTON, February 26 — The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today applauded Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) for introducing the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). “This bill represents a balanced and comprehensive solution to a problem that strikes at the heart of our basic constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law for all Americans,” said Wade Henderson, LCCR Executive Director.

The Conyers/Feingold bill would ban racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, require data collection to monitor progress, and provide best practices grants to help state and local police departments combat profiling.

LCCR also welcomed the introduction yesterday of a similar racial profiling bill by Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The Breaux/Voinovich bill contains many important elements, according to LCCR, including a requirement that police departments address profiling as a condition of receiving federal grants. In other respects the Breaux/Voinovich bill is not as strong as the Feingold/Conyers bill: it does not require data collection, one of the most useful tools in identifying the prevalence of race-based policing; it lacks a strong mechanism to ensure that police departments comply with the prohibition on profiling; and it contains a definition of profiling that does not clearly prohibit police officers from using pretexts to conduct racially motivated traffic stops.

Sen. Feingold and Rep. Conyers crafted the original End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) in June 2001, and won strong bipartisan support. The new bill would build on guidance issued by the Department of Justice in June 2003, which bans federal law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling.

“Three years ago, President Bush promised to end racial profiling in America,” said Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau. “Instead, he has expanded the discredited practice. Profiling was wrong when it was used to illegitimately target African Americans and Latinos in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ and it is wrong for the Administration to expand its application to Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and Sikhs in the ‘war on terror.'”

“This legislation is a key step in the fight to ensure that no one in America is subject to law enforcement encounters based on crude bias,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

ERPA is being introduced one day before the anniversary of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund’s report Wrong Then, Wrong Now: Racial Profiling Before and After September 11th, which helped to raise public awareness of traditional and post-9/11 racial profiling and called for a national commitment to banning both practices.

“Racial profiling is contrary to effective law enforcement,” said Karen K. Narasaki, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. “It generates resentment among minorities and undermines the respect and trust between law enforcement and communities that are essential for successful police work.”

“The elimination of the flawed practice of profiling will force law enforcement to put the focus on apprehension of real criminals instead of wasting precious resources on targeting individuals based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin,” continued LCCR’s Henderson. “In America, we cannot and should not use race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion as a proxy for criminal suspicion.”

“The introduction of these two bills makes clear that ending racial profiling will remain a top priority in Congress this year,” said Wade Henderson, LCCR Executive Director. “We look forward to working with all members of Congress to finally make good on President Bush’s three-year old promise to end racial profiling in America.”

To arrange interviews with LCCR or for a copy of its report documenting racial profiling, contact Shantelle Fowler at 202-833-9771.