WASHINGTON — Hoping to seize on the renewed national debate over race and discrimination following the trial of George Zimmerman, two Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation that would seek to end racial profiling at the hands of law enforcement.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) banded together for a second time to announce companion versions of the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013, legislation they had previously pushed in 2011 and that appeared before Congress in 2001, 2004 and 2007 as well. The legislation would attack racial profiling by several means, including mandating training for federal law enforcement officials on racial profiling issues, submitting data on all routine and spontaneous investigatory activities to the Department of Justice, providing Justice Department grants for the development and implementation of protocols that discourage profiling, and requiring the attorney general to make periodic reports assessing the nature of any ongoing discriminatory profiling practices.
All 15 co-sponsors on the Senate bill are Democrats: Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Carl Levin (Mich.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). There are a total of 39 co-sponsors on the House version, also all Democrats. A spokesman for Conyers said previous Republican backers had either retired or lost their reelections, but his office was in the process of reaching out to current members of the House GOP who might be interested.
Conyers pointed to the public outcry over Zimmerman’s acquittal in the 2012 shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin as reason to revisit the effort. Speaking at a press conference to announce the legislation, the veteran congressman said that although Martin’s death was not the result of a law enforcement encounter, the question of whether the Florida teen was a victim of racial bias “cannot be separated from the enforcement profiling debate.”