Department of Justice Announces Updates to Profiling Guidance
December 8, 2014 - Posted by Patrick McNeil
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday unveiled updates to racial profiling guidance first released in June 2003 under President George W. Bush.
The guidance, which initially banned profiling only on the basis of race and ethnicity, was expanded to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
“The Department of Justice should be commended for making desperately needed improvements to the federal profiling guidance for law enforcement,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “By expanding protected categories to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and closing some longstanding enforcement loopholes, this policy will make law enforcement both more effective and reflective of our national commitment to fairness and diversity.”
Despite significant progress, troubling exceptions and loopholes remain, such as the guidance not applying to state and local law enforcement. The guidance also retains exceptions for the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which disproportionately profile Latinos, Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs. Additionally, the guidance does not ban the troubling practice of “mapping,” data gathering, and surveillance of racial, ethnic, and religious communities. These activities are a pernicious form of profiling that associates criminal activity with racial, ethnic, or religious identity.
The New York Times reported on a draft of the updated guidance back in April, and in the wake of police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, and elsewhere across the country – and in the absence of any revisions – more than 100 organizations renewed the call for federal action to prevent discriminatory profiling.
These recent statements culminate years of advocacy and countless calls to action from diverse organizations. Almost one year ago, 225 groups reissued a letter calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to update the guidance, outlining particular areas of the guidance they wanted to see improved. Some of those areas were addressed in the revised policy, such as the inclusion of additional categories, while other areas remain unchanged.
“Despite these concerns,” Henderson said on Monday, “the Department of Justice’s long-awaited revisions to its profiling guidance for federal law enforcement represent a significant step forward. Where it falls short, we will work with this administration to completely end profiling by all law enforcement.”