University of Pittsburgh
June 15, 2010

Pitt Criminal Law Professor to Testify Before Congress June 17

Harris' 2 p.m. testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is titled "Ending Racial Profiling: Necessary for Public Safety and the Protection of Civil Rights"
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh professor of law, will testify at 2 p.m. June 17 before a hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. The hearing will take place in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The hearing is titled "Racial Profiling and the Use of Suspect Classifications in Law Enforcement Policy," and Harris' testimony is titled "Ending Racial Profiling: Necessary for Public Safety and the Protection of Civil Rights."

"The use of racial or ethnic appearance as a way to target law enforcement efforts does not help police catch more criminals; rather, racial targeting nets fewer criminals and in the bargain turns the public against police efforts," says Harris, a leading national authority on racial profiling. "Protecting civil rights by ending racial profiling will help make us safer and honor our country's commitment to equal justice under law."

Harris notes that using race or ethnic appearance to describe a person seen by a witness is fine because that kind of information helps police identify a particular individual. "On the other hand, using race as a predictor of criminal behavior in situations in which we do not yet know about the criminal conduct throws police work off," Harris says.

Author of Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work (The New Press, 2002), Harris says that "what really matters in finding as-yet-unknown criminal conduct is the close observation of behavior."

Profiles in Injustice led to federal efforts to address profiling and to legislation and voluntary efforts in more than half the states and hundreds of police departments. Harris also is the author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing (The New Press, 2005), which uses case studies from around the country to show that citizens need not trade liberty for safety: They can be safe from criminals and terrorists without sacrificing their civil rights if law enforcement uses strategies based on prevention.

Harris does professional training for law enforcement officers, judges, and attorneys throughout the country and the world and presents his work regularly to government bodies. He also works with public officials and citizens' groups both locally and nationally to improve police services and public safety.

Harris writes and comments frequently in the media on police practices, racial profiling, and other criminal justice and national security issues. He has appeared on NBC's Today show, CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, and National Public Radio, and he has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, among other media outlets. In 1996, Harris served as a member of the Civil Liberties Advisory Board to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.