Aaron Gregg, civilrights.org
WASHINGTON - Civil and human rights leaders have testified before a House subcommittee about the continuing problem of racial profiling in America and urged lawmakers to pass legislation outlawing the practice.
Racial profiling is the reliance by law enforcement on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in deciding whom to investigate, arrest, or detain, where these characteristics are not part of a specific subject description.
Civil rights groups support an end to racial profiling based not only on its discriminatory nature but on the fact that it simply doesn't work and wastes precious law enforcement resources. "Singling out African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians for special law enforcement scrutiny without a reasonable belief that they are involved in a crime will result in little evidence of actual criminal activity and wastes important police resources," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Racial profiling makes us all less safe, by distracting law enforcement from the pursuit of individuals who pose serious threats to security."
Research has consistently found that despite its ineffectiveness racial profiling is pervasive. A 2003 Leadership Conference Education Fund report found that racial profiling against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and other South Asians increased in the wake of the terrorists attacks of September 11 and a June 2009 report by Rights Working Group and the American Civil Liberties Union found that African-American and Latino drivers are more than twice as likely to be stopped, searched, or arrested by law enforcement officers as White drivers.
In fact, according to a 2004 report by Amnesty International, roughly 32 million Americans – a number equivalent to the population of Canada – report that they have been racially profiled.
The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which was first introduced in 2001 but has yet to be introduced in this congressional term, would ban racial and ethnic profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin by law enforcement at all levels of government. Civil rights groups said that ERPA must include a clear definition of what racial profiling is, programs to train law enforcement to recognize racial profiling and eliminate it, and an effective system to keep data about the prevalence of racial profiling.