As discussed at the outset of this report, before September 11, 2001, a consensus existed on the need to eliminate racial profiling in America. The events of September 11 blurred this goal, both because the anti-terrorism struggle has dominated the attention of lawmakers to the exclusion of many other issues and because efforts to end profiling are seen, erroneously, as an obstacle to fighting terrorism.
While the need to combat terrorism remains of paramount concern to all Americans, a comprehensive effort to eliminate racial profiling is still essential. Traditional forms of profiling remain pervasive, as demonstrated by the recent data from Los Angeles, San Diego, Colorado, and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the misguided use of terrorism profiling shows no sign of abating. The actions taken today to address racial profiling will have a profound impact on future generations and their ability to effectively balance the needs of law enforcement - both in the street-level and terrorism contexts - with the preservation of America's commitment to equality and justice.
The recommendations that follow are designed to achieve this balance.
Recommendation One: Every federal, state, and local law enforcement agency should expressly ban the use of racial profiling.
Any such ban should incorporate the definition of racial profiling used in this report - i.e., any use of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin to decide who to subject to law enforcement investigation, except where race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin is part of a specific suspect description.
Recommendation Two: Bans on profiling should be legally enforceable, including by private citizens.
Relief available to citizens should be limited to injunctions against the agencies found to have engaged in profiling, and should not include money damages. This approach takes account of the fact that profiling is a systemic problem, not the result of a few "bad apples" scattered through law enforcement.
Recommendation Three: Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies should adopt procedures to give effect to the ban on profiling, including:
- The implementation of disciplinary procedures for officers who engage in profiling;
- The establishment of complaint procedures for victims of racial profiling; and
- The collection of data on routine law enforcement activities, such as traffic and pedestrian stops, airport screening activities under the ATSA, INS enforcement actions, and U.S. Customs Service searches. Data collection guidelines should specifically provide for the collection of data regarding not only African Americans, but also Hispanics, Asians and Asian Americans, Arabs and Arab Americans, and Sikhs and other South Asians.
Implementation of these procedures should be a condition of federal and state funding.
Recommendation Four: Federal and state funds should be made available for law enforcement agencies to establish systems to end racial profiling.
Such funds could be used, for example, to:
- Train law enforcement officers to avoid racial profiling and to interact more respectfully with the public;
- Acquire and use technology to facilitate the collection of data;
- Acquire equipment, such as in-car video cameras, portable computer systems, and other technology that can be used to verify the accuracy of data collected;
- Create "early warning" systems and other feedback systems that help identify officers or units of officers at risk of racial profiling;
- Implement procedures for receiving, investigation, and responding to complaints alleging racial profiling; and
- Establish management systems to ensure that supervisors are held accountable for the conduct of their subordinates.
Recommendation Five: Nationwide standards should be developed for the accreditation of law enforcement agencies.
Such standards should include specific guidance on traffic stop procedures, the use of force, and interaction between police officers and multi-cultural communities.
Recommendation Six: Police oversight agencies, such as the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, should give higher priority to the investigation and remediation of racial profiling.
The Civil Rights Division's activities in the 1990's were critical to exposing the widespread existence of racial profiling. The Division's continued involvement will be critical to ending that practice.
Recommendation Seven: Law enforcement agencies should strive for a diverse workforce.
To be sure, minority officers may also engage in racial profiling, but "a workforce that reflects the diversity of the community served . . . conveys a sense of fairness and equity to the public."148
Recommendation Eight: A public education campaign is necessary to explain the myths behind racial profiling, the effects of profiling on minorities, and the flaws of profiling as a law enforcement tool.
As discussed throughout this Report, profiling is often the product of ignorance and fear rather than overt racism. Until those misconceptions are uprooted, profiling will remain.
Many of these recommendations have been part of federal legislative proposals in recent years. The End Racial Profiling Act introduced last Congress by Senator Feingold and Representative Conyers would have accomplished these goals. In the 105th and 106th Congresses, Representative Conyers introduced the Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act, which required collection of traffic stop data by state and local law enforcement officials.149 And in 2000, Representative Conyers introduced the Law Enforcement Trust and Accountability Act, designed to improve accountability for profiling and other police misconduct.150 Moreover, in the past several years, at least 20 States have enacted laws that mandate data collection and otherwise seek to address racial profiling. Numerous local jurisdictions have taken similar steps.
Some of these efforts are bearing fruit. Many jurisdictions have developed effective community policing strategies that facilitate communication between law enforcement and minority communities and that do not depend on broad, divisive, and unconstitutional stereotypes.151 But the data is clear: traditional profiling continues. And the struggle against terrorism creates a new context in which the old problems have emerged.