DECEMBER 21, 2011
A bill pending in Congress to ban racial profiling by all of the nation’s law enforcement agencies allocates millions in federal funds for special officer training programs and makes it easier for those who claim discrimination to sue the government for damages.
While the proposed law’s main selling point of ending purported discrimination by federal state and local police is noble, some of its provisions are outrageous and will cost taxpayers dearly. The measure, End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (ERPA), was first introduced in the U.S. Senate by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin who was named most liberal senator by the National Journal last year.
This month John Conyers, the ethically challenged Michigan congressman embroiled in several corruption scandals, introduced the measure in the U.S. House. If it passes profiling by law enforcement on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion and gender will be prohibited. This assumes that racial profiling is prevalent now, which is what the various civil rights groups that are pushing for the law assert.
The language of the law also makes it much easier for supposed victims of racial profiling to prove police discriminated against them. It specifically says that an individual “injured” by racial profiling may go to court for “declaratory or injunctive relief” and that the “relief” (money) may be obtained against any government body, any agent of such body who engaged in racial profiling and any person with supervisory authority over such agent. A special provision allows plaintiffs to get attorney’s fees from the government as well as “expert fees.”
What must a maligned ethnic minority prove to succeed in court if this measure passes? They must prove that the routine or spontaneous investigatory activities of law enforcement agents in a jurisdiction have had a disparate impact on racial, ethnic, or religious minorities. This could not be vaguer.
Even before the victims of racial profiling start suing the government, this law will cost taxpayers a chunk of change. That’s because Uncle Sam will kick start it by doling out $5 million in grants to train law enforcement personnel to collect race-based data on stops and searches and teach officers to have more “respectful interaction” with the public.
Some of the money will also go to develop and implement “best practice devices and systems to eliminate racial profiling.” This includes a “feedback” system (presumably from targeted suspects) that identifies officers or units of officers engaged in, or at risk of engaging in, racial profiling or other “misconduct.”
Some of the influential leftist groups pushing to pass this law claim that racial profiling was traditionally thought of as targeting African Americans but has expanded, especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In fact, the Washington D.C.-based Rights Working Group claims that after 2001 the government adopted many policies based on “mistaken theories that religious identity or national origin makes a person more likely to engage in terrorism.”
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