House Judiciary Committee Passes Bill Aimed at Racial Profiling

Article excerpt

The Traffic Stops and Statistics Act, H.R. 1443, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee last Wednesday during a markup session covering legislation on racial profiling, takings, and proposed funding for the Department of Justice.

H.R. 1443 was introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) last year to address repeated complaints of racial profiling by motorists across the nation where several traffic stops by police are prompted by race rather than other legitimate reasons.

While the legislation only calls for the gathering of statistical data to determine how widespread racial profiling has become, it is a hopeful precursor of some national policy against the practice, according to Conyers.

"Racially-based traffic stops turn driving into one of the most dangerous risks, especially when driving while black or brown," Conyers stated while reviewing the intent of the legislation. He went on to cite the "skyrocketing" number of complaints of being stopped for "phony traffic violations" that have been reported to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by African Americans and Hispanics within the past year. "This measure simply requires the gathering of good, solid, helpful information to address the problem."

The Committee passed the bill after a detailed debate on a possible amendment offered by Representative Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) which sought to define the difference between "routine" traffic stops and stops prompted by situations where possible suspects, described by race and other characteristics, could be fleeing from the scene of a crime.

The bill is now scheduled for consideration by the full House, and if adopted, will go into conference with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

NLC's Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Chair, Councilmember Olden Henson, Hayward, California, called the legislation a necessary measure to seriously begin addressing the increased complaints of racial profiling throughout the nation. …