DOJ to Announce New Limits on Racial Profiling

Feds hope to serve as "model" for local law enforcement.

ByABC News
December 8, 2014, 6:00 AM

— -- The Department of Justice is announcing today new limits on racial profiling, and the department's hope is that other law enforcement agencies will follow the example.

Although the process of drawing up the new limits on profiling began in 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder pushed diligently over the last several weeks to have the policy finalized before he leaves office, a DOJ official said.

"During the last two weeks in particular, it has been the first item on the agenda each day in his morning senior staff meetings," the official said. "It will be one of the signature accomplishments of his tenure."

The announcement comes as demonstrators have taken to the streets in cities across the country, angered by the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers.

"Holder intends for the Justice Department to be an innovator in aggressively imposing these curbs," the official said. "His 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."

The attorney general plans to have a conference call with local law enforcement leaders from across the country today to brief them on the new policy and encourage local authorities to adopt it, the official said.

He will continue this call in a series of appearance in the coming weeks, starting Tuesday at a speech in Memphis.

Though the policy is directed at Justice Department agencies, it will also apply to local police that take part in joint task forces, so the example of the federal policies is directly imparted, the official said.

A formal memo implementing the policy is expected to be posted on the DOJ website later today.

"As Attorney General, I have repeatedly made clear that profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective -- because it wastes precious resources and undermines the public trust," 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 which so many have raised throughout the nation -- it's imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices."

The policy will implement enhanced training, oversight and accountability to federal law enforcement, Holder said, "so that isolated acts of discrimination do not tarnish the exemplary work that's performed by the overwhelming majority of America's hard-working law enforcement officials each and every day."

According to the official, the revised policy will:

• expand the characteristics it protects to include prohibitions on profiling on the basis of gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race and ethnicity;

• apply not only to federal law enforcement officers, but also state and local law enforcement officers while participating in federal law enforcement task forces;

• eliminate the broad carve-outs for law enforcement activities related to protecting national security or the integrity of the borders;

• maintain the stringent 2003 standard governing routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions;

• require that in making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions like traffic stops, federal law enforcement officers may not use race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity to any degree, except that officers may rely on a listed characteristic in a specific subject description;

The Department of Homeland Security has also indicated that it will be conducting a separate and full review of all activities not covered by the policy to insure that there are appropriate standards and safeguards in place to protect civil rights and civil liberties.