“For more than a century black men and women traveling through predominantly white neighborhoods have been questioned for no reason – simply because police officers felt they didn‘t belong there,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in an open letter to members of the U.S. Senate. The ACLU’s letter urges the Senate to pass legislation that would forbid local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from racially profiling criminal suspects. The End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (S.1670) is in the first steps of the legislative process, awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the bill were to become law, it would define racial profiling and prohibit law enforcement agents from stopping, investigating, arresting, or detaining any individual based on his or her race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
The legislation includes provisions to ensure that law enforcement agencies adhere to anti-profiling policies and that victims of profiling are able to report complaints against agencies, when they do not. Eric Dolan’s report, published in The Raw Story, describes how Federal law enforcement agencies would be required to collect demographic data on routine investigatory activities, develop procedures to respond to racial profiling complaints, and implement policies to discipline officers who engage in the practice.
The ACLU’s letter to the Senate puts the proposed legislation into broader socio-political context: “During the past decade, as international terrorism has become a subject of intense concern, those of Arab and South Asian descent have been spied upon, stopped, questioned and subjected to intensified police scrutiny based on racial characteristics rather than any evidence of wrongdoing.” In addition to concerns raised since 9/11, police profiling is on the rise due to anti-immigration legislation pursued by a range of states across the nation. Dolan’s report details how local police in Alabama have been patrolling predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, telling community members to go inside their homes or possibly face arrest – because Alabama, which has passed some of the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant legislation, now has a law requiring police to verify the immigration status of people who they stop or arrest.
The End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 addresses an issue of extreme importance that has not been given the priority it demands, and in consequence many people have been unjustly affected by racial profiling, a practice that needs to end.
Sources: “ACLU Urges Senate to Support Ban on Racial Profiling,” Eric W. Dolan, The Raw Story, 2 February 2012.
Student Researcher: Liliana Valdez-Madera
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman
Santa Rosa Junior College