A Modest Proposal

Federal racial profiling


In December, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at a church in Atlanta declaring that the Department of Justice would be introducing new policies to "help end racial profiling once and for all."

The reality turned out to be less grandiose. The department did introduce new policies regarding racial profiling. But they were significantly less ambitious than Holder claimed. The new guidelines prohibit FBI agents from considering national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or religion when opening a case, adding those to existing prohibitions against considering race and ethnicity. Similar prohibitions were implemented for domestic activities by federal law enforcement officers.

But the new policies will not affect state and local law enforcement agencies, only the feds. Furthermore, the Transportation Security Administration and those who handle inspections at ports or border crossings-arguably the two areas where citizens are most likely to interact with federal officials-are exempt.

As such, activist praise was muted for Holder's changes. Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., legislative office, told The Washington Post, "The release of this revised guidance is an important signal of progress, but it does not completely address the need for reform of police tactics on a state and local level."