The federal government is taking broad new steps to ban profiling by law enforcement agencies, bolstering a 2003 policy that previously only addressed the consideration of race and ethnicity in conducting federal investigations, according to a statement released Monday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured).
The new policy bans federal law enforcement officers from using race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity to any degree, unless listed characteristics apply to a suspect description, the statement says.
“As attorney general, I have repeatedly made clear that profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective,” Holder states. “Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level, and the widespread concerns about trust in the criminal justice process, it’s imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices.”
But the policies do not extend to state and local governments, where racial profiling runs deep and wide and is presently under intense global scrutiny. The spotlight comes in the aftermath of high-profile police-involved deaths of unarmed Black men and children, including Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. The hope is that the measure will serve as a road map for state and local governments.
“With this new guidance, we take a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law enforcement officials and state and local law enforcement participating in federal task forces throughout the nation,” Holder says in the statement. “This guidance codifies important new protections for those who come into contact with federal law enforcement agents. And it brings enhanced training, oversight, and accountability to federal law enforcement across the country, so that isolated acts of discrimination do not tarnish the exemplary work that’s performed by the overwhelming majority of America’s hard-working law enforcement officials each and every day.”
Federal officers may consider race, ethnicity and other characteristics based only on trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or timeframe, that links individuals with a listed characteristic to a particular criminal incident, criminal scheme, organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of federal immigration law or an authorized intelligence activity, the statement says.