The PJ Tatler

Obama Admin to Reveal New Racial Profiling Guidelines

Today, the Obama administration will reveal new updates to its guidelines on racial profiling. Politico explains the new guidelines will tighten “limits on the practice but still allow federal law enforcement agencies to employ it at airports and along the border.”


The new policy will make some additions to the 2003 guidelines instituted by the Bush administration. The Bush guidelines applied only to race, but the updated Obama administration guidelines will also ban “profiling on the basis of religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identification.”

The guidelines come on the heels of racial unrest across the country following grand jury verdicts not to indict police officers in the killing of two African American men. It’s not clear how the addition of the new profiling guidelines would have changed either situation.

The new rules have been in the making for five years, with Eric Holder pushing for their completion before he leaves the Department of Justice. “During the past two weeks, it was the first agenda item at his daily senior staff morning meetings,” a department official said, adding: “It will be one of the signature accomplishments of his tenure.”

“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 in a statement. “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.”


Holder hopes that the new policies will show that “successful policing does not require profiling,” according to an official. The attorney general will brief law enforcement during a phone call today and follow up with events in the following weeks.

The guidelines apply to federal level policing only, but apply to all federal agencies such as the DOJ and Homeland Security. They are described as “stringent and expanded anti-profiling requirements” for ICE, the federal air marshals,  civil immigration enforcement not in vicinity of the border.

But there are exceptions: for screening and inspection at the border and for transportation security, for Border Control and ICE activities at the border, and for Secret Service protective activities. But, DHS said, “This does not mean that officers and agents are free to profile. To the contrary, DHS’ existing policies make it categorically clear that profiling is prohibited, while articulating limited circumstances where it is permissible to rely in part on these characteristics, because of the unique nature of border and transportation security, as compared to traditional law enforcement.”


The ACLU applauded the administration’s steps on profiling, saying it is “an important step in reducing the prevalence of racial profiling in federal law enforcement.” However, the civil liberties group would like to see the guidelines roll out at the state level, too. “We think that a nationwide ban on this unconstitutional practice is in order.”

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