He says the practice undermines the rule of law.
Saying it doesn't work, and diverts resources from real law enforcement, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced a bill to prohibit police agencies from using racial profiling. Cardin is sponsoring the legislation, but has managed to get a number of Senators to sign on as co-sponsors, including fellow Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski.
"Quite frankly, I think we need a national policy to make it clear that racial profiling is not acceptable. It's not good law enforcement. It wastes more resources and is against American values," he says.
If it's enacted, the legislation would prohibit police from using race, religious belief, ethnic background and national origin when it comes to traffic and pedestrian stops, frisking, searches and investigation. It would cover not only federal law enforcement agencies, but those at the state, county and municipal levels, according to Cardin. But there would be exceptions. "If you have identifiers of someone whose committed a crime, that could include race. But you shouldn't try to include people solely because of race," says Cardin.
In addition to prohibiting racial profiling, the legislation would set up programs to help law enforcement agencies eliminate racial profiling. The US Attorney General would also issue regulations that require the collection of data on this issue, and the Justice Department would issue reports to Congress on racial profiling.
In 2008, the Maryland State Police settled a lawsuit with civil rights attorneys. The suit charged that state troopers unfairly harassed some drivers because they were minorities. It was called "driving while Black." The suit, when it was filed in 1998, began with 14 African-American plaintiffs, but eight dropped out. The remaining six were to divide up $300,000 from the state among themselves. The state set aside $100,000 to hire a consultant to make sure the Maryland State Police are acting on policy changes that would eliminate racial profiling.
Senator Cardin says he introduced his bill during the last Congress, and it went before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing. He has introduced again during the current Congressional session. "This bill has just been filed, and there's no action taken on its yet. But a part of it is included in the Immigration Reform Bill that is now being considered before the United States Senate," he says.
While all of the co-sponsors are Democrats, Cardin hopes he hopes reach out to get Republicans to support this legislation. He says at the committee hearing during the last Congressional session, several GOP Senators expressed an interest in supporting the bill.