Groups Underscore Concerns with Administration’s Updated Profiling Guidance

Justice Reform 02.27,15

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 80 other national, state, and local organizations this week sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns with the administration’s Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Regarding the Use of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, National Origin, Religion, Sexual Orientation, or Gender Identity, released in December 2014.

The guidance – first released in June 2003 under President George W. Bush – initially banned profiling only on the basis of race and ethnicity, but was expanded to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Because of that expansion, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, noted that the Department of Justice should be commended for those improvements. “By expanding protected categories to include gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and closing some longstanding enforcement loopholes, this policy will make law enforcement both more effective and reflective of our national commitment to fairness and diversity,” Henderson said.

But despite significant progress, troubling exceptions and loopholes remain, such as the guidance not applying to state and local law enforcement. The guidance also retains exceptions for the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which disproportionately profile Latinos, Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs. Additionally, the guidance does not ban the troubling practice of “mapping,” data gathering, and surveillance of racial, ethnic, and religious communities. These activities are a pernicious form of profiling that associates criminal activity with racial, ethnic, or religious identity.

The letter also poses several questions about how the updated guidance will be implemented, “ultimately impeding Attorney General Eric Holder’s stated goal of eliminating discriminatory policing and profiling ‘once and for all.’”

To read the groups’ specific concerns with the guidance and their questions about its implementation, find the letter here.