On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced a highly anticipated move to curb on racial profiling by federal law enforcement, but the new rules will not cover local police departments.
It is local departments that have come under criticism in recent months over allegations that their officers profile suspects.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded Justice Department rules for racial profiling to prevent FBI agents from considering gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race and ethnicity, when opening cases. The department also is banning racial profiling from national security cases for the first time.
Holder’s revised policy covers state and local law enforcement officers while they participate in federal law enforcement task forces. But it is considered only guidance for police officers in state and local departments.
The new racial profiling rules come at a time of racial tension around the country after the recent deaths of three unarmed African Americans at the hands of police in Ferguson, Mo., New York and Cleveland, and the absence of criminal charges against the white police officers who were involved.
“At this historic moment in our nation’s race relations, the release of this revised guidance is an important signal of progress, but it does not completely address the need for reform of policing tactics at the state and local level,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Washington Legislative Office.
According to a Justice Department official, the goal is for federal law enforcement agencies to “model” these new policies, proving to state and local authorities that successful policing does not require profiling.
Holder briefed members of local law enforcement on the policy Monday.
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