Advocates Urge Congress to Address Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is an unjust, ineffective practice that threatens civil liberties and harms targeted communities and society as a whole, criminal justice advocates recently told members of Congress at a hearing focused on the need to pass legislation aimed at eliminating its use by law enforcement agencies.

The testimony given to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security examined the fact that in the past decade, racial profiling has become more prevalent and acceptable than ever before. Today, it pervades not only street-level policing, but also the national security, and immigration enforcement arenas.

As Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, and other witnesses at the hearing testified, racial profiling as a method of law enforcement is the opposite of “smart policing” because it relies not on fact but on assumptions about a particular group of people.

“The racially discriminatory practice of racial profiling must be challenged when we find we cannot drive down an interstate, walk down the street, work, pray, shop, travel or even enter into our own homes without being detained for questioning by law enforcement agents merely because of suspicion generated by the color of our skin and other physical characteristics,” said Shelton.

The Leadership Conference strongly encourages the 112th Congress to pass an anti-racial profiling statute modeled after the End Racial Profiling Act 2010.

“It is time for this Congress to lead the way to an America where the principles of ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘equal protection under the law’ apply to everyone,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights   in his written testimony. “By allowing racial and religious bias to decide who is detained by law enforcement, we betray those fundamental promises.”

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D. MD, introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 in the Senate in October.