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Attorney General Brian Frosh Releases Memo Designed to End Racial Profiling by Police (VIDEO)

In an effort to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Tuesday unveiled new guidance designed to end racial profiling by police in Maryland, broadening the characteristics that may not be used to single out groups during everyday police activity.

Under a guidance memorandum issued by the Office of the Attorney General, 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.

You can watch a news conference about the guidance memo below:

“Police do a dangerous, difficult job, and they do it well,” Frosh said. “But experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage. It discourage 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,” Frosh said.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett stood alongside Frosh at the Annapolis news conference to unveil the guidance memo. Leggett shared a personal story about his own experience with the police and racial profiling that occurred just last year. Leggett said he applauded the attorney general’s leadership on this important, national issue.

In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a similar guidance document addressing police profiling, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to follow suit. Maryland becomes the first state to answer that call and adopt such discriminatory profiling standards at the state level.

The memorandum contains standards in two categories: routine police work, and investigations. In routine work, profiling based on characteristics such as religion, race or sexual orientation may never take place. During investigations of specific crimes or criminal schemes, law enforcement may take those factors into account if they have credible evidence that those characteristics are directly relevant to the investigation.

The Office of the Attorney General is urging each state and local law enforcement agency to adopt these guidelines into the general orders under which they operate. Through such adoption, a process would be in place for each department to address complaints and violations.

“This is an important step forward, and the standards in this guidance are ones that all law enforcement should follow, including the Baltimore Police Department,” said Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. “I’m committed to making sure that the standards being released today are part of our practices – for the benefit of our officers and our community.”

“Profiling based on personal bias is not only illegal, but also hurts relationships between police departments and communities,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. “This Guidance Memorandum is another good tool to assist cops in remaining effective in their efforts and in continuing to strengthen trust with residents who they serve.”

The Office of the Attorney General will also be convening training sessions in different parts of the state, and will monitor and each year publicize information on the adoption of the guidelines, as well as other recommendations going forward to continue the effort to rebuild community trust.

Said Gerald Stansbury, President of Maryland State Conference NAACP: “The Maryland State Conference NAACP is pleased that the Attorney General has chosen to model the state guidelines related to profiling after Justice Department federal guidelines. African-American communities have been victims of profiling for far too long, and this is another step that we can build on to ending the practice in Maryland because we know that good policing can be done without improper and discriminatory police tactics.”

“The ACLU of Maryland welcomes the Attorney General’s guidance as an important step toward ending discriminatory profiling in Maryland and mending fractured relations between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve,” said Toni Holness, an attorney working on public policy with the ACLU of Maryland. “Everyone should be treated fairly and equally, and this guidance is a step toward making that a reality for Marylanders.”

The Attorney General’s guidance goes further than existing Maryland law by expanding the groups protected from discriminatory profiling, as well as the types of police interactions it governs.

“Discriminatory profiling is not only ineffective and unwise – it is incompatible with the promise of equal justice enshrined in our state and federal constitutions. Maryland may be the first to issue statewide guidance of this kind, but at no time has there been a greater need for unity, uniformity, and unequivocal clarity on this subject,” said Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, the lead author of the guidance memorandum. “The Attorney General’s guidance helps ensure that the pledge of equal protection is embodied, in principle and in practice, by the conduct of police and the lived experiences of citizens, in every neighborhood and of every background, who form the rich mosaic of Maryland.”

Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at sburke@mymcmedia.org or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.

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