Ferguson brings new attention to Cardin bill on profiling

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat

Sen. Ben Cardin said Tuesday that his legislation to prohibit law enforcement agencies from racial profiling had received renewed national attention after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last month.

Speaking at a briefing on Capitol Hill, the Maryland Democrat said the bill had "gotten new life" and that he hoped the proposal could forward this year.


"How many more Michael Browns will we have?" Cardin asked. "We all know that profiling is un-American and wrong. We know it turns communities against law enforcement, where they need to work together."

Cardin's bill -- which has support from Democrats only -- is more detailed than a similar provision approved by the Senate last year as part of a massive bipartisan immigration bill. The bill would make federal funding to police agencies contingent on their adoption of anti-profiling policies.


The legislation defines profiling as the practice of relying, "to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or spontaneous investigatory activities," except in cases where the department has "trustworthy information" that links people of a particular group to a crime.

The issue has a deep history in Maryland. The ACLU and the NAACP have waged a decades-old battle with state police over access to racial-profiling complaints. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last year that the agency must make public the internal affairs files on those complaints after redacting identifying information.

In addition to the legislation, Cardin and other lawmakers are pressing the Department of Justice to update guidance on racial profiling, an effort that has been underway for months.