Anti-Racial Profiling Bill Introduced In US Congress

March 5th, 2004
On February 26th, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2004 (ERPA) was introduced in the US Congress. The legislation, launched with bipartisan support in the House (H.R. 3847) and the Senate (S. 2132), would curb profiling by law enforcement officials on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.

“Racial profiling is a serious issue for the approximately half a million Sikhs in the United States,” said SMART National Director Preetmohan Singh. “Prior to 9/11, we supported efforts to combat racial profiling which predominantly targeted African Americans and Latinos. Unfortunately, this ineffective practice has broadened since the terrorist attacks. Sikh Americans, along with others who are or appear to be Arab, Muslim, or South Asian, are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement.”

The practice of racial profiling occurs when law enforcement relies on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities in the absence of a specific suspect description. ERPA builds on the Department of Justice’s 2003 guidelines prohibiting racial profiling. At least two dozen states have adopted similar initiatives. ERPA would institute a general prohibition on profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity or national origin by federal, state or local law enforcement.

The legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and in the Senate by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). ERPA would define racial profiling, as well as institute data collection systems to identify and track racial profiling, which would help repair frayed relations between police and minority communities. Additionally, the bill would make grants available to police departments for in-car video cameras, police training and portable computer systems.

SMART sent a letter supporting the bill to all members of the House and the Senate. The letter stated, “We have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agents conduct their duties in an honorable fashion. Nevertheless, research from around the nation has concluded that profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies is widespread, and that, despite the efforts of some states and local law enforcement agencies to address this problem, federal legislation is necessary.”

SMART worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), a broad coalition of 180 national civil rights groups, to draft a bill that will address national security and improve public safety while ending racial profiling.

To learn more about the bill and see it's co-sponsors please visit: End Racial Profiling Act of 2004

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