Racial Profiling Legislation Stalled in Congress

Article excerpt

CONGRESS

The fight to end unethical policing continues on Capitol Hill.

The deadly shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin may be the catalyst for Congress to finally enact long-stalled legislation aimed at tackling the national problem of racial profiling.

For more than a decade. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and other Capitol Hill lawmakers have fought, without success, to make racial profiling illegal under federal law. Now, in light of the Martin case, proponents on Capitol Hill believe there's renewed momentum to propel the issue forward.

The End Racial Profiling Act, cosponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the Senate (S. 1670), with companion legislation from Conyers in the House (H.R. 3618), was introduced in 201 1 and was the subject of an April hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

The measure would prohibit racial profiling - the targeting of individuals due to race, ethnic identity, national origin or religion - by federal, state or local law enforcement officials. It would also bar state and local law enforcement from using race as a factor in criminal investigations.

"Racial profiling is un-American. It is against our values, it wastes valuable resources, and it should have no place in modern law enforcement," said Cardin. "It's time that we move forward in guaranteeing to every American in this country, equal justice under the law."

In February, Martin, 17, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman has been charged by Florida prosecutors with second-degree murder in Martin's death. In the meantime, the Justice Department is weighing federal hate crime charges.

"The Trayvon Martin shooting is a tragic example of what can happen when an entire community is considered suspect," said Conyers. …