On Monday, the Attorney General of the United States issued an update to the 2003 U.S. Department of Justice guidance regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies. The NAACP has long supported the clarification of ambiguities, closing of loopholes, and elimination of provisions that allow for racial or other forms of discriminatory profiling. As such we strongly commend Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice for expanding the characteristics it protects in the 2003 guidance beyond perceived race and ethnicity, to now also include gender, religion, national origin, gender-identity and sexual orientation. We are also pleased the guidance has been expanded to include state and local law enforcement officers participating in official federal law enforcement task forces. This new racial profiling guidance also expands many areas of protection by eliminating many of the deeply problematic broad carve-outs for law enforcement activities that weekend the much needed protections in the 2003 guidance, with a few exceptions.
In addition to the U.S.D.O.J. specific provisions, the policy also applies some of the expanded anti-profiling requirements to many of the Department of Homeland Security responsibilities for the very first time. This includes all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and their enforcement activities wherever they may occur. It includes law enforcement activities performed by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Border Patrol, Federal Air Marshalls, and DHS officers protecting federal buildings. As we commend DOJ and DHS on the many much needed improvements in the guidance, we look forward to working with the administration to address a number of reforms to the 2003 guidance still needed, including protections in the area of language, disability (including HIV status), housing status, occupation, and socioeconomic status.
From Cornell William Brooks, the President and CEO of the NAACP: “We welcome the revisions and updating of the 2003 guidance on the use of race by federal law enforcement issued by Attorney General Holder. This guidance is a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law-enforcement officials, but it is one piece of many necessary long-term systemic criminal justice reforms. Now, we call on the Obama Administration to urge adoption of this guidance at the state and local law enforcement levels in all cases and not only cases where they are working with Federal task forces along with other reforms including providing specificity in data collection and training and mandating that law enforcement officers, who violate the guidance, be held criminally liable. We have painfully witnessed both in Ferguson, MO, and Staten Island, NY along with communities across the country the dangers of high levels of racial profiling, police discrimination and no accountability. Therefore, while we are encouraged by this step forward in updating this guidance, there is still significant progress to be made to end racial profiling once and for all.”
From Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy: “We are pleased to see this much needed improvement and expansion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2003 Racial Profiling Guidance. Since the beginning of the Obama administration we’ve met with Attorney General Holder and many officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with the hope of seeing a new guidance that would modernize, strengthen and expand anti-racial profiling protections for all Americans. This new guidance moves the Nation a long way forward in doing just that. In short, it expands the definition of racial profiling and protections covered in the 2003 Guidance, of perceived race and ethnicity to now include gender, religion, national origin, gender-identity and sexual orientation. It also expands federal government agency accountability beyond the Justice Department to now include many of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers such as, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Border Patrol, Federal Air Marshalls, and DHS officers protecting federal buildings. We look forward to continuing our work with the Administration to see the U.S. Department of Justice Racial Profiling Guidance full implementation and further improvement.”