Sen. Ben Cardin, D. Md., and Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., on April 22 reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which would prohibit profiling by federal, state, local, and Indian tribal law enforcement authorities on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
“Racial profiling robs people of their dignity, undermines the integrity of our criminal justice system, and instills fear and distrust among members of targeted communities,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, in a statement applauding the bill. “Strong evidence suggests that racial profiling is ineffective and counter-productive as a law enforcement tool and makes us all less safe by distracting law enforcement from the pursuit of individuals who pose serious threats to security. Despite this, its use has actually expanded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the context of counterterrorism; fighting drug trafficking and other ‘street-level’ crimes; and in efforts to enforce immigration laws.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in December 2014 unveiled long-awaited updates to its racial profiling guidance that was first released in June 2003 under President George W. Bush. The guidance, which initially banned profiling only on the basis of race and ethnicity, was expanded to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Despite that step forward, troubling exceptions and loopholes remain in the guidance – and in February, 80 groups sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns.
The version of ERPA introduced on Wednesday mirrors the DOJ’s expansion of what discriminatory profiling in America actually looks like – and adds gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation as identity categories that law enforcement may rely on in their law enforcement practices.
ERPA’s reintroduction came one day after the March 2 Justice arrived in Washington, D.C., from New York City. Henderson praised the 250-mile march, saying in a statement, “We thank the marchers for their strength and perseverance and urge Congress to work toward creating a justice system that protects the lives and rights of all Americans.”