Bush Seeks End to Racial Profiling

Friday, February 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush paid tribute Friday to Black History Month and promised to ``look at all opportunities'' to end the police practice of racial profiling.

Bush, visiting a predominantly black elementary school, was asked by a reporter if he would issue an executive order banning police from considering a person's race or ethnicity in detaining suspects or making traffic stops.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police also has urged the White House to appoint a panel to investigate racial profiling.

``I'll look at all opportunities, starting with the gathering of information where the federal government can help jurisdictions gather information, compile information, to get the facts on the table to make sure people are treated fairly in the justice system,'' Bush said Friday.

He was at Washington's Nalle Elementary School to promote reading and celebrate public education.

``What's important about Black History Month, is to read about different heroes who made a difference in making history and to realize they're a fantastic role model,'' Bush said as he settled before a third-grade class to read ``More Than Anything Else,'' by Marie Bradby, about the young Booker T. Washington and his determination to learn to read.

``He knew if he learned to read he could change his life,'' Bush told the children.

To news cameras, the president, whose private-school voucher proposal has drawn heat from public school advocates, said: ``One of the reasons I came is, I think it's important for the capital to stay focused on public education, public education reforms.''

Congress is considering Bush's plan to order annual state assessments in reading for every child in grades 3-8 in order to measure performance of pupils and schools. He has also proposed taking government funds from public schools that fail three years in a row, and giving parents that money in the form of vouchers to enroll in another school — public, private or parochial.

Bush, who was accompanied Friday by Education Secretary Rod Paige, scrawled the name of the book he read on a strip of paper, joining the class in its ``reading chain,'' where each week, the children read a book by a black author or one about a black hero.

It was another effort by Bush to reach out to black Americans, who voted against him 9-1 in the November election and whose suspicions about him deepened with his selection of conservative John Ashcroft as attorney general.

The issue resurfaced Wednesday, when Bush's chief of staff signaled he intended to dismantle an office on race relations. Bush aides said Andrew Card had misspoken.

The One America office, they said, will become a ``working group on uniting America'' that will operate through the White House's Domestic Policy Council and its office of public liaison.

On Thursday, promising that Bush will be sensitive to the issue of racial profiling, the White House said it is planning meetings with ``people from all sides'' to explore ways to address the problem.

The school visit capped a week in which Bush used virtually all his public appearances to plug his 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut. He sent the proposal to Congress on Thursday.

Next week, he shifts his focus to defense policy, visiting three military installations. Bush is scheduled to travel with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Fort Stewart, Ga., on Monday; the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday; and on Wednesday to an Air National Guard base in Charleston, W.Va.

He was to leave for the Camp David presidential getaway early Friday afternoon, and remain there through late Sunday.

Bush also spent most of last weekend at Camp David in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.