Murder victim Timothy Caughman with Beyonce (236088)
Credit: Contributed

Unless you have been living under a rock, we’ve all heard the expression, “Driving while Black.” Deborah Jacobs, in her capacity as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, once said, “We want to send a message to the victims about their rights, and to the state about its obligations. We need real police reform and we need to answer the suffering of the many victims of the New Jersey Turnpike.”

A few years ago, “Getting the State of New Jersey to Stop Racial Profiling Is Like Pulling Teeth” headlined a new advertisement unveiled at a news conference in Newark.

The ad featured Orange, N.J., dentist, Dr. Elmo Randolph, an African-American man who was pulled over approximately 100 times in a five-year period without ever receiving a ticket. In the ad, Randolph described his experience with the police, stating, “The police searched my car and I had to prove to the troopers that being an African-American man in a nice car doesn’t mean that I am a drug dealer or car thief.” Flash forward to 2017, and not much has changed.

According to civil rights attorney, Brian Figeroux, of Figeroux & Associates, the campaign to end racial profiling failed because Congress, President George W. Bush and President Obama, for “national security” purposes, needed the cover of law to “target” Muslims. Consequently, African-American, Hispanics and other minorities suffered. Congress and the president need to end racial profiling, not ban Muslims.

What is racial profiling?

The term “racial profiling” means “The practice of a law enforcement agent or agency relying, to any degree, on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation in selecting which individual to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities or in deciding upon the scope and substance of law enforcement activity following the initial investigatory procedure, except when there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality and timeframe, that links a person with a particular characteristic described in this paragraph to an identified criminal incident or scheme.” —H.R. 1933 (End Racial Profiling Act of 2015).

According to One America (www.OneAmerica.org), a civil rights organization, members of African-American, Native American and Latino (Hispanic) communities are stopped and searched more often, for example when driving while Black or Brown, than whites.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, members of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities have increasingly been searched, interrogated and detained in the name of national security, oftentimes labeled terrorism suspects when in reality many were only charged with misdemeanors or minor immigration violations, if they were charged at all.

One America, as a civil rights organization, “advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies.”

The following is an email interview with Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica.org, concerning his organization’s advocacy supporting the End Racial Profiling Act, revising the 2003 DOJ guide on racial profiling and eliminating the DHS programs.

Question: Were the changes you recommended under the Obama administration ever implemented?

Answer: The Department of Justice issued a revised profiling guidance in 2014, and that guidance responded to the majority of our recommendations. However, the guidance excluded the Department of Homeland Security, which raised significant concerns over what accountability would apply to DHS and its various sub-agencies.

Question: If those changes were implemented, what is their current status under the Trump administration?

Answer: The guidance is still official policy for non-DHS agencies, at least until the new attorney general decides to rescind or change it. There are additional profiling guidances that agencies like Customs and Border Protection did adopt. We are concerned, however, that the executive orders recently announced under the Trump administration contradict the existing guidance.

Question: Does your organization recommend the same policy advice to the Trump administration? If so, what lobbying efforts are you currently working on?

Answer: Our recommendations have not changed. From our perspective, profiling is not only unconstitutional, but it’s poor law enforcement practice. We will continue to advocate for reforms at DHS and its element agencies, but the leadership of these agencies have either been less open to these discussions, or there are still positions not yet filled. Our other venue is Congress, where these issues can be raised in the context of oversight and confirmation hearings. Finally, we anticipate that members of Congress will be introducing the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which will be a vehicle to build coalitions and advocacy against profiling in Congress and in the broader community. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is an excellent resource that provide more detailed information on the content of that legislation.

The End Racial Profiling Act of 2015 does the following:

Prohibits any law enforcement agent or agency from engaging in racial profiling.

Grants the United States or an individual injured by racial profiling the right to obtain declaratory or injunctive relief.

Requires federal law enforcement agencies to maintain adequate policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling and to cease existing practices that permit racial profiling.

Requires state or local governmental entities or state, local or tribal law enforcement agencies that apply for grants under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program and the Cops on the Beat Program to certify that they maintain adequate policies and procedures for eliminating racial profiling and have eliminated any existing practices that permit or encourage racial profiling.

Authorizes the attorney general to award grants and contracts for the collection of data relating to racial profiling and for the development of best practices and systems to eliminate racial profiling.

Requires the attorney general to issue regulations for the collection and compilation of data on racial profiling and for the implementation of this Act.

The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Feb. 16, 2017.

As stated by the Human Rights Watch, “The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act would prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from targeting a person based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation without trustworthy information that is relevant to linking a person to a crime. The bill would require law enforcement to maintain adequate policies and procedures designed to eliminate profiling, including increased data collection in order to accurately assess the extent of the problem. The bill would also require training for law enforcement officials on issues of profiling and mandates the creation of procedures for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints of alleged profiling.”