Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled updated guidelines on Monday that directly prohibit federal agents from profiling members of the public except when necessary to identify a suspect.
Notably, the new guidelines expand an existing prohibition on racial profiling prohibition to include other characteristics as well: national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation. The rules apply “a uniform standard to all law enforcement, national security, and intelligence activities conducted by the Department’s law enforcement components,” his office said in a release.
The announcement comes in the aftermath of recent deaths of unarmed African-Americans during their interactions with local police departments in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York. In response, protesters across the country have accused police of widespread racism against black men.
In his statement, Holder appeared to go out of his way to avoid mentioning the specific controversies, referring to them only as “certain recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level.”
“I have repeatedly made clear that profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective,” Holder said. “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.”
The guidelines were released publicly and contain a number of examples of what federal officials — and other police officers participating in federal operations — may do with members of the public.
“A law enforcement officer who is working as part of a federal task force has received a reliable tip that an individual intends to detonate a homemade bomb in a train station during rush hour, but the tip does not provide any more information. The officer harbours stereotypical views about religion and therefore decides that investigators should focus on individuals of a particular faith. Doing so would be impermissible because a law enforcement officer’s stereotypical beliefs never provide a reasonable basis to undertake a law enforcement or intelligence action,” one example noted.
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