Is Congress Ready to Back Legislation Ending Racial Profiling?

Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Ben Cardin have introduced legislation prohibiting the discriminatory practice.

Posted: 07/30/2013 12:32 PM EDT

Back in the day when Ronald Hampton, a representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, was on the D.C. police force, he witnessed white fellow officers engaging in racial profiling first-hand.

"It was a normal and standard practice in police departments during my time. I rode with officers who regularly stopped Black folk in Washington, D.C., simply because they were Black and driving a Cadillac because Black folk weren't supposed to drive Cadillacs and Mercedes then," recalls Hampton, who served from 1970-1994.

Unfortunately, that's how many police officers still roll. It's also the reason Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) on Tuesday re-introduced the End Racial Profiling Act.

If passed, it would mandate racial profiling training and the collection of data on all routine or spontaneous investigatory activities and require that federal law enforcement and other funds going to state and local governments be contingent on the adoption of policies that effectively prohibit racial profiling. It also would authorize the Justice Department to provide grants for developing and implementing best policing practices and require the attorney general to provide periodic reports to Congress to assess ongoing discriminatory practices.

"I've been introducing this bill since 2001," said Conyers. "My Martin Luther King holiday bill took 15 years, but we're not going to take that long for this."

Cardin said he believes that on the Senate side at least there will be bipartisan support to do the right thing in part because the bill helps law enforcement do its job better.

The lawmakers began working on re-introducing the legislation before the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, but they believe the outcome could help lead to its successful passage.

"I think the Martin tragedy is another factor," added Conyers. "It wasn't that we were losing the battle; we've been building more and more support. And I think the atmosphere is even more favorable now and we can do this perhaps before the end of this session of Congress."

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(Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

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