Maryland Attorney General Announces Restrictions to Racial Profiling

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has released a memorandum that sets out restrictions on racial profiling. As reported in The Washington Post:

Frosh (D) has prepared a “guidance memorandum” stating that police activities must be neutral with respect to characteristics such as race, national origin and religion, except when the traits are legitimate components in crime investigations.

The document, scheduled for release during a news conference Tuesday morning, does not carry the weight of law or create enforceable rights, but it confirms that discriminatory profiling runs afoul of the U.S. and Maryland constitutions, according to the attorney general’s office. Local police departments would have to adopt the same guidelines in order to make it enforceable.

“We believe that this standard will provide an important measure of fairness and respect for members of all these groups, while improving the environment in which law enforcement conducts its work,” Frosh said in prepared remarks.

But he promised not to hamstring authorities by condemning all use of distinguishing factors in investigations.

“Ending discriminatory profiling does not require law enforcement to ignore or reject bona fide leads and credible intelligence,” the memo states. “It does require police to rely only upon information that is trustworthy and is relevant to the investigation of a specific offense, organization, or crime scheme.”

The article notes that Maryland has become the first state to officially follow the federal standards set by the Justice Department earlier this year. And while Maryland already has some laws on the books prohibiting racial profiling, the memorandum expands upon them. As reported in The New York Times:

Maryland law requires law enforcement agencies to have policies prohibiting racial and ethnic profiling during traffic stops; the new guidelines expand on that in two ways, Mr. Frosh’s office said. Under the law, officers may not use race and ethnicity in making police decisions; the guidelines also include national origin, identity, disability and religion as traits that may not be considered. They apply to routine operations, to investigations and to traffic stops.

For more information read the full articles in The Washington Post and the The New York Times.

Additional coverage:

DeWees Reacts to Police Profiling Guidelines Issued by the State (The Carroll Count Times)

Montgomery County Executive Gives Personal Account of Racial Profiling (The Baltimore Sun)