‘End Racial Profiling Act’ Reintroduced

by Roger Clegg

Democrats are reintroducing that hardy (but never passed) perennial, the “End Racial Profiling Act,” which purportedly aims to end racial profiling by law-enforcement officers. This time around, the sponsors are trying to tie it in with, naturally, Trayvon Martin — even though the bill has nothing to do with the George Zimmerman case, since whatever you think of George Zimmerman and whatever he did, he is not a law-enforcement officer.

In my statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, I summarized my testimony this way: “(1) care must be taken in defining the term ‘racial profiling’; (2) the amount of racial profiling that occurs is frequently exaggerated, and care must be taken in analyzing the data in this area; (3) with those caveats, racial profiling as I will define it is a bad policy and I oppose it, with (4) a possible exception in some antiterrorism contexts; but (5) there are problems with trying to legislate in this area in general, and the End Racial Profiling Act in particular is problematic.” ”Problematic” is an understatment, but among the problems with the bill are its encouragement of litigation and, in particular, its use of a “disparate impact” approach — which will actually encourage race-based decisionmaking by the police and which, even more ironically, creates equal-protection problems for the bill. 

In my oral testimony, I also noted that the reason for the racial profiling that does exist is the disproportionate amount of street crime committed by African Americans, and that this is largely a result of the 72 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate among them. Finally, I pointed out that, if the police are hamstrung, the victims will of course be law-abiding folks in high-crime areas — who are themselves disproportionately black and poor.

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