DOJ rolls out expanded racial profiling rules

Civil liberties organizations say regulations annouced Monday for federal authorities do not go far enough to stop the practice of racial profiling amid rising tensions over recent police killings of unarmed black men.

Even as the Obama administration prohibits federal agents from racially profiling people, the same rules will not extend to state and local police departments in most cases.

"Using race, the color of someone’s skin, religion, or ethnicity as any basis for suspicion or investigation is demoralizing, unconstitutional, and a practice that should be left in the history books, where it belongs,” says Laura Murphy, Washington legislative director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Justice Department announced Monday it is expanding rules against racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

For the first time, federal agents will be formally prohibited from profiling people based on their national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, in addition to their race or ethnicity.

“Profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, but it is profoundly misguided and ineffective,” Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder: 'There are grounds for impeachment' in Mueller report Prosecutor appointed by Barr poised to enter Washington firestorm Dems struggle to make Trump bend on probes MORE said Monday in a statement.

Holder pointed to “isolated acts of discrimination” that he said have promoted mistrust of law enforcement.

The rules were in the works long before the recent deaths brought renewed scrutiny national to police tactics. But Holder said the events in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City underscore the need for the strengthened regulations.

“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.

The racial profiling standards come four months after 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson.

In November, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot him, sparking outrage by many protesters across the country.

The Michael Brown shooting has sparked a wave of protests and riots not only in Ferguson, but around the country.

More protests broke out last week after the New York City police officer who choked Eric Garner to death was not indicted by a grand jury for killing the unarmed black man.

These killings have led to mounting tensions between white police officers and the black community.

The Justice Department hopes it can calm the situation with major reforms to the racial profiling standards.

The rules will apply to a number of agencies within the Justice Department, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The rules will also cover some divisions in the Department of Homeland Security, but will exclude airport security, border protection, and Secret Service.

The racial profiling standards will also apply on a limited basis to state and local police officers that participate in federal operations.

But the majority of police officers will be exempt from the rules during routine, daily operations, though they are meant as a model for police around the country.

Civil liberties advocates say they are disappointed the Justice Department didn’t do more to reign in state and local police officers, considering the recent incidents were sparked by local officials and not federal agents.

“This is not an adequate response to the crisis of racial profiling in America,” Murphy said. “The president should compel all his federal police, as well as state and local agencies to adhere to the law and stop engaging in biased profiling now."

Civil liberties advocates also expressed concerns about some national security organizations being exempt from the rules.

Agencies like the FBI, Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection may continue racially profiling suspects, the Justice Department said.

The FBI’s profiling of certain neighborhoods is a particularly “offensive practice” based on stereotypes, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said.

Henderson also expressed frustration about the TSA’s “disproportionate” profiling of Latinos, Arabs, south Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs.

Law enforcement policies like these have “victimized and alienated American Muslims,” Murphy said.