Three Senators Targeted by ACLU As Pivotal To Passage of Bill To Combat Racial Profiling

September 11, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union has identified three senators as keys to passage of legislation to help end the discriminatory police practice of racial profiling — known as “Driving While Black or Brown” — and is launching a media and grassroots campaign to raise awareness of the issue in their states.

o push forward legislation that would begin to address racial profiling or if they will stand back and let it languish.”

The Senators that have been identified by the ACLU are Spencer Abraham, R-MI; John Ashcroft, R-MO, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT. Each of them holds key positions on the Senate Judiciary Committee and each could add a great deal of momentum to the bill by becoming co-sponsors.

As part of the media campaign, the ACLU has created television and radio advertisements on racial profiling that are being aired on several stations in Missouri, Michigan, Utah and Washington, DC. The ads represent a historic first for the ACLU, which has never before used paid TV advertising.

The ads attempt to build community awareness of the racial profiling issue in the Senators’ states. The ACLU chose Missouri, for example, because Senator Ashcroft said in March that he would support pending legislation if its sponsors would make a few changes. Despite immediate agreement to his changes to “The Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act” (S 821), Ashcroft has yet to follow through on his commitment. Without his support, the bill has languished in the Constitution Subcommittee, which Ashcroft chairs.

“The American people overwhelmingly oppose racial profiling,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “In addition, law enforcement agencies that have already agreed to collect traffic stops data in each of their states would be eligible for federal funds if this bill passes.”

A broad coalition of law enforcement and civil rights groups are pushing for passage of legislation, including the ACLU, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association and the National Organization of Blacks in Law Enforcement.

“Racial bias is a persistent threat to democracy in this country, and nowhere is that more evident than in the treatment of people of color by law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” Murphy said.

In some states, the ACLU said, statistics show that motorists of color are more than 75 times more likely than white drivers to be stopped by the police while driving.

In the coming weeks the ACLU plans to release an update to its widely read 1999 report, “Driving While Black: Racial Profiling On Our Nation’s Highways.

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