Obama Administration - Profiling Needs a New Model

On December 9, 2014, the Daily Business Review published an article entitled, "Obama Administration Takes Aim at Profiling." The article discusses how on Monday, the Obama administration issued guidelines that ban federal law enforcement officers from profiling on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, religion, and other characteristics – new protocols that the Justice Department hopes will be a model for local departments nationwide.

The policy expands guidelines that were established under the Bush administration; its implementation will require new training and the collection of data from federal law enforcement agencies.

While civil rights advocates welcome the broader protections, they are disappointed because the guidelines do not include security screening in airports and border checkpoints, and that they won't be binding with state and local authorities.

The guidelines have been in the works for five years, and while they were not drafted in response to the recent high profile cases involving the deaths of African Americans during encounters with white law enforcement officers, they have been released at a time when excessive police force, racial injustice and law enforcement's ill treatment of minorities has been all over the mainstream media.

The guidelines include federal agencies within the Justice Department: the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; they also encompass local and state officers who serve on joint task forces with federal agents.

The practicality of the guidelines is yet to be understood, specifically because it is the local police officers who handle traffic stops, 911 calls, and the daily interactions with the people of their communities.

The Obama administration hopes that the rules will serve as roadmap for law enforcement agencies, and Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to brief local law enforcement officials on Monday to encourage them to adopt federal guidelines on the state and local levels.

Holder made the release of the guidelines a priority before leaving the Justice Department next year. He said the guidelines are a "major and important step forward to ensure effective policing" by federal law enforcement.

The guidelines will:

  • End the profiling of national security and border investigations.
  • Prohibit profiling based on religion, national origin, and gender.

The protocols will continue to allow for significant exemptions, and this includes Homeland Security officials who perform inspections at the border and screen passengers at U.S. airports. Homeland Security contends that the unique nature of border and transportation security necessitates the exemptions.

"This does not mean that officers and agents are free to profile," the department said in a statement. "To the contrary, DHS' existing policies make it categorically clear that profiling is prohibited," while allowing for limited circumstances where race and other characteristics could be considered.

The American Civil Liberties Union does not agree with those exemptions. "This guidance is not an adequate response to the crisis of racial profiling in America," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.

Murphy believes that the guidelines are so loosely drafted that its exceptions permit some of the worst law enforcement policies and practices that have victimized American Muslim and other minority communities.

Are you a victim of racial profiling? If so, contact Herman Law, P.A. to work with a former prosecutor who is committed to defending your rights under state and federal laws!

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