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We Must Put an End to Racial Profiling in America

The tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin has focused national attention on the need to make sure minority communities are protected from hate crimes and racial profiling.

Racial profiling—the targeting of individuals because of race, ethnic identity, national origin or religion—has no place in our nation. The recent, tragic and avoidable shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager in Florida, has focused national attention on the need to make sure minority communities are protected from hate crimes and racial profiling, a practice that is ineffective in crime prevention, undermines effective law enforcement, and erodes civil rights.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states that “no State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Last October, in keeping with the U.S. Constitution, I introduced legislation that would put an end to racial profiling and ensure that all Americans have “equal protection under the laws.”

My bill, the End Racial Profiling Act, S. 1670, would prohibit the use of racial profiling by federal, state or local law enforcement officials. It also would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from using race as a factor in criminal investigations. It has the support of the NAACP, ACLU, the Rights Working Group and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Racial profiling demonizes whole communities. Following the murder of Trayvon Martin, I met with members of Maryland’s faith and civil rights communities and heard about repeated incidents in which racial profiling has been used to target minorities for suspicion.

We must put an end to such targeting based on race or ethnic identity. I am pleased that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating all the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, including the investigation that was conducted by local authorities.

Maryland law enforcement has had problems with racial profiling. In the 1990s, the ACLU brought a class-action lawsuit against the Maryland State Police for illegally targeting African-American motorists for stops and searches along Maryland’s highways. The parties ultimately agreed that “the need to treat motorists of all races with respect, dignity and fairness under the law is fundamental to good police work and a just society … (and) that racial profiling is unlawful and undermines public safety …”

Racial profiling is not an effective policy and often saps scarce law enforcement resources that could be utilized more effectively. Minority communities—African Americans, Arabs, Muslims, Hispanic communities—know all too well the anger and frustration of being singled out because of their race, religion or ethnic origin. One of the major reasons racial profiling doesn’t work is because it corrodes public trust and makes it less likely that affected communities will voluntarily cooperate with law enforcement and community policing efforts.

It is time that we make clear that racial profiling has no place in law enforcement.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jnrentz1 April 13, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I think Hate Crime as a classification, with increased penalties are wrong. There are those on these pages that think otherwise. For Montgomery County, does anyone know of any prosecution, in the past 10 years, of any minority for any Hate Crime in which the victim was/is an otherwise normal White person?
Doug R April 13, 2012 at 09:22 PM
It doesn't matter if there was profiling in the Trayvon Martin killing. The 9-1-1 operator instructed Mr. Zimmerman NOT to follow and stalk Mr. Martin, but he did it anyway. Would Mr. Zimmerman have done the same thing if Trayvon was a young white boy wearing a hoodie? Only he can answer that question. But none of this diminishes the fact that crimes are often intended to send a signal or terrorize specific communities. Enhanced penalties are completely appropriate in crimes where this occurs. If you're against hate crime penalties, then you're also against enhanced penalties and sentences for acts of terrorism, right?
Joe Thomas April 13, 2012 at 09:31 PM
This statement by Cardin just guaranteed that I will vote for someone else. He is a typical pandering politician who sees his chance to win the black vote. Has he introduced any bills that would prohibit the beating and robbing of the white guy in downtown Baltimore last week by a crowd of blacks? That video has been hushed up by the liberal media but it is available online. Actually racial profiling is good police work. If an officer works in an area where 95% of the armed robberies have been committed by black males and he sees two black males enter a store at closing time while another remains behind the wheel would it be unlawful under Cardin's bill to keep the car under observation? Would it be unlawful for the officer to get out of his car and look in the store window? Mr. Cardin you are a joke.
jnrentz1 April 13, 2012 at 10:11 PM
"Racial profiling—the targeting of individuals because of race, ethnic identity, national origin or religion—has no place in our nation. The recent, tragic and avoidable shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager in Florida, has focused national attention on the need to make sure minority communities are protected from hate crimes and racial profiling, a practice that is ineffective in crime prevention, undermines effective law enforcement, and erodes civil rights." Senator Cardin, What about White communities? Do they deserve to be protected from hate crimes and racial profiling? Why did you single out minority communities? Do they deserve special protections, that non-minorties will be denied? It seems to me that "equal protection under the laws" will be denied to many, to appease the few if your law is passed.
Theresa Defino April 14, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I said it was the prosecutor's view. And there are no slime ball politics involved in Cardin's support of his own bill--and as we've said before, he NEVER said there was racial profiling, he said the case was raising attention to the issue. Which it has. And I am confident the prosecutor is correct. Too bad Travyon wasn't just a "normal white person," right, Frank!

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