US Department of Justice Profiling Guidelines Anything But a Ban

By Jennifer Salan, Al-Jazeerah, 19 June 2003

Washington—Yesterday the Department of Justice released guidance regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies. The guidelines, which include no enforcement or remedy provisions, do little more than acknowledge that profiling exists in America while laying out broad scenarios in which profiling is actually endorsed under the guise of national security.

These ‘guidelines’ do more harm than good. Lacking enforcement provisions and providing a broad-brush clause for anything declared security-related, the DOJ seems to be asking us, once again, to show blind trust. Following what our community has witnessed first hand and compounded by the Inspector General’s report, we’re not buying, said AAI President Dr. James Zogby.

Instead of outlining a narrow set of circumstances where the use of race or ethnicity may be appropriate, the DOJ guidelines allow federal law enforcement officers to employ profiling based on the broadly termed circumstances at hand. The DOJ even outlines a scenario where profiling passes for law enforcement because there can be no expectation that the information must be specific to a particular locale or even to a particular identified scheme. Citing the aforementioned guideline, the DOJ outlines a scenario where it would be permissible to subject an entire ethnic group to increased scrutiny at airports based on a perceived threat.

The claim that these guidelines ban racial profiling is patently false. It is clear that after two years, the DOJ wants to create the appearance that they have banned profiling while in reality they are writing a prescription for its continued and even expanded use. Ethnic, racial, religious or national origin profiling has never been an accurate or useful tool for law enforcement, it simply doesn’t work. These guidelines only provide camouflage for the next useless round up of innocent immigrants—something that should not be confused with security, added Zogby.

Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities.