Holder Widens Rules That Limit Profiling

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Policy Won’t Affect Local Police or Screening at Borders and Airports.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday laid out new guidelines against racial and other types of profiling, citing law-enforcement cases that have sparked protests even as the new federal policy wouldn’t affect local police.

The federal government since 2003 has banned profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity, though it has made an exception for national-security investigations. The new policy also will bar profiling on the basis of religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, according to officials.

But the new policy won’t apply to screening at borders and airports, where Department of Homeland Security personnel have long given extra scrutiny to people from certain countries.

The policy also doesn’t apply to local or state law enforcement, beyond those personnel assigned to federal task forces. Because of that, the rules don’t speak to the cases involving Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, and Eric Garner, who died after being put in an apparent police choke hold in New York City. Grand juries in those cases declined to indict the police officers, both white, in the deaths of the men, both black and unarmed, which have stirred demonstrations and spurred calls for a re-examining of the relationship between law enforcement and their communities.

Concerns about racial profiling on the part of civil-liberties groups mostly have to do with traffic stops and pat-downs of pedestrians. Because federal law-enforcement agents rarely engage in those activities, barring them from profiling may have little impact on how and why people are stopped in their everyday lives.

Still, Mr. Holder cited the recent cases as a reason for the new policy, and he said he would encourage local authorities to adopt the same guidelines. “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,” he said.

Rajdeep Singh of the Sikh Coalition, a group that advocates against racial profiling of travelers, said that because the new policy won’t apply to much of the work done at the border and at airports, it gives “a green light to profile ethnic and religious minorities at the border, and continues to give [the Transportation Security Administration] carte blanche authority to profile travelers based on stereotypes.”

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