Racial profiling is “a sloppy, lazy substitute” for actual policing, said Professor Deborah Ramirez from Northeastern University School of Law, at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing called “Racial Profiling and the Use of Suspect Classifications in Law Enforcement.” The witnesses at the hearing represented many different organizations and fields, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Sikh Coalition, Muslim Advocates, police officers, and professors. This diverse group of experts agreed on the following key points:
- Racial profiling is an abusive practice that targets innocent citizens solely because of the way that they look.
- Racial profiling is not an effective law enforcement strategy. Research shows that racial profiling diverts officers’ attention from using actual, objective signs of suspicious behavior to effectively assess situations.
- Racial profiling erodes trust between law enforcement and its community. As a result, people are less likely to report a crime or work with the police to give information that could apprehend an actual criminal.
Despite its ineffectiveness, racial profiling continues to persist in many law enforcement practices. It’s not just at traffic stops either, as commonly thought. It’s in airport security checks, where Sikhs are screened 100 percent of the time at some airports. It’s in FBI monitoring actions, where innocent Muslim citizens fear a surprise visit from the FBI at their local mosque or at their front door. And, it’s even being introduced as a part of civil immigration policy, about which Salt Lake City Chief of Police Christopher Burbank stated that aside from seeing the person run across the border, there is no way for an officer to suspect a person of being an illegal immigrant aside from basing their reasoning on physical characteristics.
To finally end the practice of racial profiling, Congress should pass legislation which incorporates the following:
- independent data collection tracking law enforcement officers’ stops and searches to accurately measure the extent of racial profiling
- funds for better law enforcement training that teaches officers how to look for suspicious behavior , and
- a way for people to redress their grievances if they are a victim of racial profiling, which will hold officers accountable for their actions.
While there have been attempts to end racial profiling in Congress, no bill has successfully been passed. Communities across the country have been subjected to this useless, degrading tactic for too long. Now is the time for Congress to reintroduce and pass comprehensive legislature to end racial profiling!