Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) this week proposed legislation that would offer millions of dollars in federal grants to states that enact and enforce laws that prohibit the use of racial profiling.
The Racial Profiling Prevention act, H.R. 4398, is a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, which drew several complaints from Congressional Black Caucus members that Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, was not prosecuted because Martin was black.
“The Trayvon Martin tragedy did not involve a law enforcement officer, but his death reminds the country that every jurisdiction, including the federal government, has a responsibility to exercise its authority to eliminate practices that brand, on sight, black men and especially our youth as criminals,” Norton said. “Reports of racial profiling on federally funded highways, for example, are frequent. If we are serious about eliminating this form of racial discrimination, concrete steps are overdue.”
The bill would take $7.5 million a year from the Highway Trust Fund, for the next five years, and allow the government to use this for grants to states that are taking steps to curb racial profiling. Specifically, grants would go to states that enforce anti-racial profiling laws, and maintain public statistics about the race and ethnicity of drivers who are pulled over by police.
The grants could be used to pay for the costs of collecting traffic stop data, evaluating that data, and developing programs to reduce racial profiling.
Under the bill, no state could receive more than 5 percent of the total grant money available in any one fiscal year. The bill would take a total of $37.5 million from the Highway Trust Fund through fiscal year 2017.