By AUZINEA BACON and YESENIA MONTENEGRO
WASHINGTON – Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has reintroduced his bill to ban racial and religious profiling in all levels of law enforcement, just months after protests over the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died of injuries after being stopped and beaten by Memphis Police officers.
The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2023 would prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement, which the legislation defines as “targeting on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
The legislation was previously passed by the House in 2020 and 2021 Congresses as part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The measure aimed to ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement agents, but did not advance in the Senate.
“Racial and religious profiling is a scourge to law enforcement that breeds distrust within communities, damages the reputation of all officers and far too often, takes lives,” Cardin said in a statement.
“We think that racial profiling really robs people of dignity and undermines our criminal legal system, and instills fear and distress among members of many marginalized communities, especially black and brown communities,” Chloé White, senior policy counsel for justice at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told Capital News Service. Her organization has backed the bill each time it has been introduced.
The bill would implement mandatory training on racial profiling issues for federal law enforcement agencies. These agencies would also have to submit data to the Justice Department on all random or routine investigations that officers make.
In some locations, the rates of police pulling people over during the day versus at night are very different. A Stanford study showed that Black people are less likely to be stopped after sunset despite being stopped more frequently than White people during the day. Comparing the rates in many locations, there is “an extreme bias” in the daytime versus nighttime, when race is less visible, White said.
Under the bill, the Justice Department would be authorized to provide grants to aid in the implementation of better policing practices. The attorney general would also be required to regularly provide reports to assess any potential profiling practices.
The legislation also would allow the Justice Department or individuals who are harmed by potential violations of the legislation to seek “injunctive or declaratory relief in courts of law.”
In November, Cardin led a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging them to follow President Joe Biden’s guidance issued in May 2022 to prevent discriminatory profiling.
“Discriminatory profiling is unjust in its targeting of minority communities, ineffective in stopping criminal or terrorist activities, inconsistent with American values, and wasteful of limited government resources,” Cardin and 12 other senators said in the letter.
As part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Cardin previously also introduced the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which aimed to address police misconduct by creating uniform national standards for police departments.
“There is always a lot of fighting when it comes to transforming the criminal legal system, or even if we’re just talking about the portion that is law enforcement and policing,” White said. “I think there is always great resistance to that, whether it’s because of fears of political setbacks or insistence that racism is not pervasive in our society. And so it’s not the bill that needs to change. It’s the minds of lawmakers that need to change.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, is among the 15 cosponsors of the legislation. The others are Sens. Alex Padilla, D-California; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont; Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; Ben Ray Lujan, D-New Mexico; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With bureaus in Annapolis and Washington run by professional journalists with decades of experience, they deliver news in multiple formats via partner news organizations and a destination Website.