Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) took to the floor of the upper chamber to press for congressional action to forbid law enforcement on the city, county, state and federal levels from engaging in racial profiling.
“I’m a strong supporter of our independent Judicial Branch and the grand jury system, but I understand the frustration felt by so many Americans,” Cardin said. “After the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, which were heaped on top of incidents in Florida, California, and elsewhere around the country, it’s no wonder that people – especially people of color – are losing confidence that we have a system where all of our citizens are treated equally under the law.”
The initial suspicion for many is that individuals were stopped solely because of the color of their skin, not because they were observed in criminal activities. That’s discriminatory profiling, and it’s just plain wrong,” he said. “Discriminatory profiling is un-American and not what we believe in. It is a waste of precious resources and it turns communities against law enforcement.”
Cardin said Attorney General Eric Holder’s updated guidance for law enforcement is welcome. That was revised to prohibit profiling based on new categories such as national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation.
“I was pleased to see that this guidance mandates new data collection, which will make it easier to track profiling complaints,” the senator continued. “I am wholly disappointed that this updated guidance does not extend to state and local law enforcement, nor does it fully cover the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, all of which should be covered.”
He stressed that Holder “could have gone further, and should have gone further, but his actions only make it clearer that Congress must act to make permanent a ban on discriminatory profiling and hold police accountable for engaging in discriminatory profiling, by passing the End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1038).”
Cardin introduced that bill in May 2013. It would require any agency receiving federal funding to maintain anti-profiling policies and procedures deemed acceptable by the federal government.
A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).
“Only Congress can close these harmful loopholes for good and dissolve some of the mistrust of law enforcement in our minority communities,” the senator said. “DOJ has moved in the right direction but this new guidance is truly a missed opportunity.”