Surrounded by a national conversation about police brutality and law enforcement’s treatment of minorities, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on August 25 issued guidance designed to ban discriminatory profiling by law enforcement on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.
“Police do a dangerous, difficult job, and they do it well. But experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage,” Frosh said. “The memorandum we are issuing today is meant to put an end to profiling of all kinds, which will help repair the frayed relationships between police and many in the community by making mutual respect the norm in everyday police encounters.”
Maryland is now the first state to issue guidance since the U.S. Department of Justice issued its own updated profiling guidance in December 2014. Like Maryland’s, the federal guidance expanded the ban on profiling to include additional identity categories beyond just race and ethnicity – an expansion that Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, said would “make law enforcement both more effective and reflective of our national commitment to fairness and diversity.”
That federal guidance, however, maintained troubling exceptions and loopholes, such as not applying to state and local law enforcement. That’s why – though it doesn’t create enforceable rights – it’s up to states to issue their own version of the federal guidelines.
The Leadership Conference and 80 other national, state, and local organizations in February 2015 sent a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns with the administration’s guidance, including the exception for state and local law enforcement.
“State and local law enforcement agencies like the NYPD, the Ferguson Police Department, and the Cleveland Police Department have encounters with community members every day that raise serious concerns about discriminatory policing,” the letter stated.
In April 2015, Sen. Ben Cardin, D. Md., and Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which would prohibit profiling by federal, state, local, and Indian tribal law enforcement on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation – the same categories as the DOJ’s federal guidance. That legislation, which is stalled in both chambers of Congress, would apply to state and local agencies exempted by federal guidelines.