The Corner

The End Racial Profiling Act

Last week, Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, introduced (again) the “End Racial Profiling Act” (H.R. 5748). As Corner readers know, I am no fan of racial profiling, but I am also no fan of the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement and therefore no fan of this bill.

It is critically important that legitimate, nondiscriminatory police strategies that nonetheless have a disproportionate impact on one group or another not be discouraged. Alas, this bill does that in two ways. First, it mandates data collection by beat cops, which would inevitably pressure them to stop (or not stop) people in such a way that they “get their numbers right.”

Second, it explicitly declares that “a disparate impact on racial, ethnic, or religious minorities shall constitute prima facie evidence of a violation of this title.” This provision, ironically, makes the bill itself of dubious constitutionality, since it happily accepts law-enforcement activities that have a disparate impact on some racial, ethnic, and religious groups, but not those that have a disparate impact on others.

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