Patt Morrison for April 17, 2012

Do we need legislation to stop racial profiling?

Activists Organize March And Rally Against Police Stop And Frisks

Mario Tama/Getty Images

An opponent of the New York Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy march on January 27, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The NYPD says the stops assist crime prevention while opponents say they involve racial profiling and civil rights abuses. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, during the first nine months of 2011 514,461 city residents were stopped by the NYPD. 451,469 were innocent (88 percent). 54 percent were black, 31 percent Latino and 9 percent white.

Today the Senate held its first hearing on racial profiling in the U.S. in more than a decade, since the 9/11 attacks. Looking at state immigration laws like Arizona’s SB1070, profiling of African-Americans by law enforcement, and anti-terrorism efforts that affect American Muslims, the hearing committee considered how racial profiling “harms law enforcement efforts in communities of color.”

If passed, such a bill would establish a national definition of racial profiling and make it illegal, as well as pull federal funding from state and local governments who fail to prohibit it. Would a federal bill banning racial profiling be enough to end the practice here in the United States? Or is such a bill even necessary? While the shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin didn’t give rise to the hearing, that case, as well as cases like those of Kendrec McDade, will certainly be on the senators’ minds.

WEIGH IN

Do you agree that racial profiling is a problem in the United States? Do you believe that legislation would be helpful in ending the practice?

Guests:

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), author of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA); he was a witness at today’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee looking at racial profiling

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, “the nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity”; he was one of the main witnesses in opposition to the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) at today’s senate hearing


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