No one denies – at least openly – that racial profiling is bad practice. The question at hand, and one raised during a Senate Committee hearing on civil and human rights last week, is how to end it.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights listened to testimony from legislators, legal experts, law enforcement officials, and advocates expressing their views on the state of racial profiling in América.
The issue has taken on a heightened sense of urgency in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. The shooter, George Zimmerman – who is of Jewish and Hispanic descent – is now on trial for Martin’s death.
Members of the committee debated the merits of The End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 – which supporters say would help strengthen ties between minority communities and law enforcement agencies that are supposed to serve them.
Opponents describe the bill, first introduced last October by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), as an insult to police officers everywhere.
Captain Frank Gale, with the Denver Sheriff’s office, says the bill would only “make matters worse.” The language, he argues, is “too broad” and calls for policies that are “in real life not practical.”
Gale, who is the National Second Vice President with the Fraternal Order of Police, also took aim at the bill’s financial consequences. The legislation, he says, “threatens to penalize local and state law enforcement agencies” by withholding federal funding unless these agencies comply with the requirements of the bill.
Those requirements include providing training to all officers on racial profiling issues, collecting racial and other sociological data in accordance with federal regulation, and establishing an independent audit program to ensure appropriate response to
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