Ronald Davis, chief of police for the city of Palo Alto, California, has 27 years of experience working in law enforcement and harbors no illusions about the existence and impact of racial profiling. In testimony delivered at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on ending racial profiling Tuesday morning, he was very candid about how he will one day have to teach his 14-year-old son about how to deal with the problem.
“I know that when I teach him how to drive a car I must also teach him what to do when stopped by the police — a mandatory course for young men of color,” Davis said. “I must also prepare him for the bias he is likely to face and the reality that, despite the strength of his character or his contributions to society, there will be those who will attach criminality to him simply because of the color of his skin, and do so under the veil of national security.”
Davis was one of several witnesses who called on Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, which prohibits the use of profiling by law enforcement officials, would provide national guidelines for addressing and tracking it and close loopholes in the Justice Department’s racial profiling guidance. Without it, Davis said, “We will continue business as usual and only respond to this issue when it surfaces through high-profile tragedies such as the Oscar Grant case in Oakland, California, and the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Florida.”
“The so-called practice of racial profiling, hyped by activists, the media and others with political agendas, is one of the greatest sources of stress between law enforcement and the minority community in our nation today,” he said, adding that profiling isn’t a “legitimate police practice employed by any law enforcement agency in the United States.”
According to Gale, who is African-American, the proposed legislation would only exacerbate tensions between law enforcement and minorities. He also said that members of his group, the nation’s largest law enforcement labor organization bill, find the bill “offensive.”
“While I am no fan of racial profiling,” he said, “I think we have to recognize that it’s going to be tempting for the police and individuals to profile so long as a disproportionate amount of street crime is committed by African-Americans.”
Clegg also ascribed that so-called disproportionate amount of street crime to the number of African-American children born out of wedlock.
“I know that this is not a popular thing to say, but I think whenever we’re discussing racial disparities in the United States, that is the elephant in the room and it has to be addressed,” Clegg said.
In testimony submitted to the subcommittee, Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said the bill addresses racial profiling by “defining racial profiling, calling for data collection to assess the extent of the problem, train law enforcement officials from the unit commander to the cop-on-the-beat on how to not use this ineffective and counterproductive policy, and finally, offers citizens and the government avenues for private rights of action to ensure accountability to make certain that racial profiling is stopped.”
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(Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)