Renewed push to legally ban racial profiling

WASHINGTON (PAI) — Union groups joined civil rights, community and faith-based organizations in a renewed push to legally ban racial profiling by law enforcers.

In an April 17 Senate hearing and an accompanying letter to lawmakers, the groups say racial profiling violates human rights, hampers law enforcement and reinforces prejudice, among other negative impacts.

“Racial profiling involves the unwarranted screening of certain groups of people, assumed by the police and other law enforcement agents to be predisposed to criminal behavior,” says their letter. It is signed 160 groups, including the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Jewish Labor Committee, 9to5 and the National Education Association. APRI and APALA are AFL-CIO Constituency Groups.

“By allowing racial and religious bias to dictate the scope of law enforcement’s investigation or who is detained by law enforcement or, we betray the fundamental promise of equal protection under the law,” adds Wade Henderson, executive director of the labor-backed Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which originated the letter. “It is time for Congress to lead the way to an America where the principles of ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘equal protection under the law’ apply to everyone.”

“Multiple studies have proven that racial profiling results in the misallocation of law enforcement resources and therefore a failure to identify actual crimes. By relying on stereotypes rather than proven investigative procedures, the lives of innocent people are needlessly harmed by law enforcement agencies and officials,” the letter adds.

The signers urge lawmakers to back the End Racial Profiling in America Act, introduced this year by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md. The bill has been introduced for a decade but has gone nowhere.

The letter cited “recent events across the nation” showing “racial profiling is a pervasive and harmful practice that negatively impacts individuals and communities.” One of their two top examples was Arizona’s racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic law, SB1070 and similar legislation elsewhere.

The other was the lax Florida law enforcement reaction to the slaying of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin  by a neighborhood watch “volunteer.” The slayer automatically assumed that a black teenager in a gated community was a criminal. He shot Martin, then claimed self-defense under Florida’s laws. The letter points out that while the anti-profiling law would not have saved Martin, it would have forced the Florida law enforcement officials to respond more quickly and positively to corral his slayer.

Photo: At a march against racial profiling in Arizona’s SB 1070 law, Raleigh, North Carolina, July 29, 2010. Kevin Ziechmann/News & Observer/AP



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.