18 to 24Jun03

Bush Issues Ban On Racial Profiling Policy Makes Exceptions for Security

President Bush issued the first broad ban on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies yesterday, but included exceptions permitting use of race and ethnicity to combat potential terrorist attacks.

The new policy covers about 120,000 officers at 70 federal agencies with law enforcement powers. It prohibits the use of "generalized stereotypes" based on race or ethnicity, and allows officers to consider them only as part of a specific description or tip from an informant.

"Routine patrol duties must be carried out without consideration of race," the Justice Department policy states. "Stereotyping certain races as having a greater propensity to commit crimes is absolutely prohibited."

The administration said the ban is the broadest ever issued by the federal government, and in some cases prohibits the use of race in ways that are not otherwise illegal or unconstitutional.

Ralph F. Boyd Jr., assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in an interview that administration officials hope the ban will serve as a model for state and local law enforcement. That is where most of the abuses have been documented.

Boyd said a Justice Department study found "no apparent evidence of systemic evidence of racial profiling" in federal law enforcement, and said the policy is "directed at stopping the abuses of a few."

"There are certain narrow sets of circumstances where race or ethnicity is a common-sense factor that you would consider along with other factors," Boyd said. "But federal law enforcement cannot simply use race with no other information that someone has committed a crime."

The administration billed the policy as a major step in fulfilling Bush's pledge in his first address to Congress -- in February 2001 -- that racial profiling is "wrong, and we will end it in America."

A summary said the policy will not take away any "tools needed to identify terrorist threats and stop potential catastrophic attacks."

The document cites the hypothetical case of a report by intelligence sources "that Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to use commercial jetliners as weapons by hijacking them at an airport in California during the next week."

"Before allowing men appearing to be of Middle Eastern origin to board commercial airplanes in California airports during the next week, Transportation Security Administration personnel, and other federal and state authorities, may subject them to heightened scrutiny," the document states.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement calling the guidelines "little more than rhetorical smoke and mirrors."

LaShawn Y. Warren, an ACLU legislative counsel, criticized the exceptions, saying they "will legitimize and encourage the use of racial profiling at our borders, in our airports and anywhere else federal agents can apply vague and hollow justifications of national security."

[Source: By Mike Allen, Washington Post Staff, 18jun03]

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This document has been published on 19jun03 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.