Senate Panel Holds Hearing On Racial Profiling Bill | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Senate Panel Holds Hearing On Racial Profiling Bill

Play associated audio

Civil rights groups are lobbying Congress to put an end to racial profiling, the practice of targeting people because of their race or religion. A bill before Congress aims to do just that. On Tuesday, a Senate Judiciary panel heard from victims, police and lawmakers.

The story begins in February 2001, when President George W. Bush delivered an address to Congress in which he promised to stop racial profiling. Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"In the national trauma that followed, civil liberties came face to face with national security," says Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin.

And all too often, he says, the promise of national security won, at the expense of Muslim and Arab people who were stopped in airports, mosques, and schools.

The Associated Press reported that New York police have spanned out along the East Coast, eavesdropping on Muslim student groups at well-known colleges.

Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota is a Muslim American. He said at Tuesday's hearing that he's concerned about his son.

"He's a good kid who's never done anything wrong," Ellison says. "And I worry to think that he might be in somebody's files, simply because he wanted to be active on campus."

New York University law student Elizabeth Dann, a convert to Islam, has a list of fears. She says that one of them is a "fear that for the Muslim students of so many universities who are young, hopeful and patriotic, the surveillance will destroy some of their faith in fairness, justice and law enforcement."

Durbin says racial profiling doesn't work and makes it harder for police to do their jobs.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, says he might support a new law to ban racial profiling. "I think I understand the problem," he says. "I just don't know where the line between good law enforcement and racial profiling ends and begins."

Ronald Davis, the police chief in East Palo Alto, Calif., had an answer.

"If you put, if something comes out on the radio that you're looking for a black male, 6 foot tall, 225 pounds, and very handsome, that did a robbery then it makes sense why you would stop me. I could understand that," he says, drawing laughter at the hearing.

But the Fraternal Order of Police says the End Racial Profiling bill is no laughing matter.

Frank Gale spoke for the group, America's largest law enforcement association.

"This bill provides a solution to a problem that does not exist unless one believes the problem to be solved is that our nation's law enforcement officers are patently racist," he says, "and that their universal training is based in practicing racism."

The Justice Department hasn't expressed a position on the bill.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Marvel's New Hero Wants To Save The World — And The Citrus Industry

Captain Citrus was sponsored by Florida's orange growers, whose profits are being hurt by disease and declining consumer demand for orange juice. They hope the comic character will boost sales.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go To The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.