The attorney general of the United States said this week that the Department of Justice will soon officially unveil the first update in over a decade to the federal rules concerning racial profiling.
In the wake of the recent grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown — and the subsequent mass protests across the US — Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the DoJ will soon usher in new rules to “codify our commitment to the very highest standards of fair and effective policing.”
“In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards — and robust safeguards — to help end racial profiling, once and for all,” Holder said Monday evening at an event in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church — the same house of worship where civil rights leader Martin Luther King preached prior to his death.
“We are dealing with concerns that are truly national in scope and that threaten the entire nation. Broadly speaking, without mutual understanding between citizens – whose rights must be respected – and law enforcement officers – who make tremendous and often-unheralded personal sacrifices every day to preserve public safety – there can be no meaningful progress,” Holder added. “Our police officers cannot be seen as an occupying force disconnected from the communities they serve. Bonds that have been broken must be restored. Bonds that never existed must now be created.”
Additionally, Holder said President Barack Obama has assembled a group of law enforcement execs and community leaders from across the US who will meet in the coming weeks “to examine the present state of policing” and identify best practices and recommendations to the Department of Justice.
“I want to be very clear that, although frank dialogue is a necessary first step and sign of commitment, these efforts aren’t just about talking – and they’re certainly not about imposing solutions from Washington. They’re about bringing leaders together – from every perspective – to confront specific challenges, to spur renewed engagement and to translate healthy dialogue into concrete, coordinated action and results,” Holder said.
“As this congregation knows better than most, peaceful protest has long been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past struggles for progress,” he said. “This is what Dr. King taught us, half a century ago, in his eloquent words from the Ebenezer pulpit and in the vision he shared from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
The DoJ has not publically announced any further details yet, but the changes are expected to update the Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies that was adopted in June 2003 under President George W. Bush.
“The use of race as the basis for law enforcement decision-making clearly has a terrible cost, both to the individuals who suffer invidious discrimination and to the nation, whose goal of ‘liberty and justice for all’ recedes with every act of such discrimination,” the DoJ said when that document was released more than a decade ago.
In the midst of a series of officer-involved shootings involving white cops, however — evidenced by the August 9 killing in Ferguson, Missouri of Brown, 18, and last month’s death of a 12-year-old Cleveland, Ohio boy — law enforcement practices have been put under the looking glass; on Monday, Pres. Obama asked for $263 million in funding that would go towards police body cameras and new training for law enforcement officials.
“This is not a problem just of Ferguson, Missouri. This is a national problem,” Obama said. In Atlanta later that day, Holder said the president’s initiative will “strengthen promising practices by local police while bolstering law enforcement and community relations.”