The state of Maryland recently took a huge step in confronting racial profiling and discriminatory stops by police officers.
On August 25, 2015, state attorney general Brian Frosh, released a statement of new police guidelines that spell out for the first time that police officers may not in any way use discriminatory decisions about the appearance of an individual as guidance when interacting with citizens.
This may seem like something that should have already been on the books – and it should have been – but with this new announcement, Maryland has actually become the first state to expressly articulate this and prohibit police from making discriminatory stops.
The Attorney General’s memo explains, “officers in any law enforcement agency in Maryland may not consider race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity to any degree during routine police operations.”
Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Racial profiling is patently illegal, violating the U.S. Constitution’s core promises of equal protection under the law to all and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Just as importantly, racial profiling is ineffective. It alienates communities from law enforcement, hinders community policing efforts, and causes law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve.
“Police do a dangerous, difficult job, and they do it well. But experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage,” Frosh explained in a statement about the new guidelines.
“It discourage[s] cooperation by law-abiding citizens, it generates bogus leads that turn attention away from bona fide criminal conduct, and it erodes community trust. 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.”
But not everyone is happy. Police and prosecutors seem to love discriminatory policing. The national media has done very little to discuss this new move, as well. It would seem that many interests outside of Maryland are hoping that these new guidelines do not catch on and spread.
Frosh alluded to the fact that these new guidelines are in response to U.S. Department of Justice’s December adoption of a racial profiling policy in 2014.
That policy says that federal agencies and agents cannot discriminate and base suspicion upon appearance. But these rules cannot be applied on the state level – at least not in the form that they were handed down by the DOJ.
Instead, the state attorney general’s office says that these can and should be adopted by states as set of recommendations for police departments to incorporate.
— ACLU of Maryland (@ACLU_MD) August 25, 2015
While there have been anti-racial profiling laws in the past, the definitions for what this constitutes has always been very narrow – allowing police to keep on with their racist profiling practices for years. This new approach in Maryland expands both the classes that may not be discriminated against as well as the relevant interactions to which these apply.
(Article by Reagan Ali)