Members of Congress, Law Enforcement Officials, and Advocates Call for an End to Racial Profiling

The negative effects of racial profiling and the need to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) of 2011 were the focus of a Senate subcommittee hearing held on April 17 as part of the National End Racial Profiling Advocacy Week.

Chairman Dick Durbin, D. Ill., an ERPA cosponsor, spoke to the progress of the bill and what additional steps need to be taken.

“Eleven years after last Senate hearing on racial profiling, we are returning to the question of what can be done to end racial profiling,” he said. “We need to close the loopholes in the Department of Justice’s guidance, including adding provisions to protect individuals from being profiled based on religion and national origin.”

Several current members of Congress also gave testimony on the need to end profiling based on an individual’s race or religion, including Senator Ben Cardin, D. Md.,  Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., Rep. Keith Ellison, D. Minn., Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D. Ill., Rep. Judy Chu, D. Calif., and Rep. Frederica Wilson, D. Fla.

“When the civil liberties of any group are violated, we all suffer,” Chu said. “We must stand up for the rights of all Americans.”

Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Anthony Romero urged Congress to provide law enforcement officers with tools for effective policing. “ERPA would address the problem of racial profiling comprehensively by banning the use of racial profiling and provide training to help police avoid responses based on stereotypes and unreliable assumptions about minorities,” Romero said in written testimony.

David Harris, professor of law and associate dean for research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, cited careful observation, not racial profiling, as the key to successful police work. “Using race affects and alienates most needed individuals of the community, the members,” he said.

In submitted testimony, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “The practice of using race as a criterion in law enforcement flies in the face of progress we have made toward racial equality and must be stopped. Racial profiling is a moral and social problem that threatens our shared value of humane treatment of all people under the law.”

To learn more, see The Leadership Conference’s report “Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling.”