Today, the United States Department of Justice announced policies to curb racial profiling. To be clear, these rules to curb racial profiling will largely not apply to local police forces. Local police have come under fire following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri and the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police.
Here is an excerpt from the DOJ rules to curb racial profiling:
“Two standards in combination should guide use by Federal law enforcement officers of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity in law enforcement or intelligence activities:
- In making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as ordinary traffic stops, Federal law enforcement officers may not use race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity to any degree, except that officers may rely on the listed characteristics in a specific suspect description. This prohibition applies even where the use of a listed characteristic might otherwise be lawful.
- In conducting all activities other than routine or spontaneous law enforcement activities, Federal law enforcement officers may consider race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity only to the extent that there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or time frame, that links persons possessing a particular listed characteristic to an identified criminal incident, scheme, or organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of Federal immigration law, or an authorized intelligence activity. In order to rely on a listed characteristic, law enforcement officers must also reasonably believe that the law enforcement, security, or intelligence activity to be undertaken is merited under the totality of the circumstances, such as any temporal exigency and the nature of any potential harm to be averted. This standard applies even where the use of a listed characteristic might otherwise be lawful.”
Though these rules will only apply to local law enforcement if and when local teams work with federal units, this effort to curb racial profiling is a small and positive step toward change. It’s important to note that the average number of black men killed daily by police in America today is higher than the number of black men lynched each day in the Jim Crow south. The historic, systemic, and all-American problem of distrust between black communities and largely white police forces will not be cured by these DOJ rules – even if they could apply to local police – and even if local police would abide by them.
Education will help. Not education about race relations, but with better-funded schools by the federal government. With better schools, better prospects and opportunities for children in poor communities, the odds for hope and the ability to see oneself as destined for prosperity are always increased. However, what we need, as always, is compassion. To rid ourselves of blame and the violence that from there grows always requires compassion. To see the simple humanity in the faces of all people, poor, white, rich, black, cop, and kid – of course, requires compassion. We’ll never grow up if we can’t find this in ourselves. Thanks for reading.