WASHINGTON, February 25th — We are very pleased that Senators John Breaux, D. La., and George Voinovich, R. Ohio, agree with the civil rights community on the need to pass a federal law banning racial profiling. Their bill contains many important elements, including new federal support for local efforts to combat profiling and a requirement that police departments address profiling as a condition of receiving federal grants.
Nonetheless, we believe that the Breaux/Voinovich bill falls short in several respects:
- 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;
- the definition of profiling in the Breaux/Voinovich bill does not clearly prohibit police from using a pretext to stop motorists or pedestrians; for example, it may allow the discredited practice of singling out for traffic stops black motorists who commit the same minor traffic infractions as white motorists.
The civil rights community supports legislation by Senator Russ Feingold, D. Wis., and Representative John Conyers, D. Mich., that resembles the Breaux/Voinovich bill, but addresses the above-listed concerns.
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. Congress must act this year.