WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department released new guidelines Thursday emphasizing that investigations must not be biased against people with disabilities, race, gender, or others. Anti-profiling rules were also expanded to include thousands more people working in the justice system.
The guidelines, obtained by The Associated Press, are the first updates in nearly a decade and now cover thousands more people than before, including prosecutors, lawyers, analysts and contractors. They have already reported to agents for Justice Department agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration and to local officials who work with them on task forces.
Released on the third anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the update also calls for, for the first time, more extensive data collection measures aimed at ensuring guidelines are followed.
“We recognize that we have a responsibility to lead by example,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the changes are a step forward, but the guidelines do not completely ban bias in national security activities, including areas where the most harm has occurred, such as watch lists and pressure to become an informant.
“We applaud the improvements the Justice Department has made, but we are disappointed that after so much work and community calls for change, this policy falls short of a complete and effective ban on discrimination by federal agencies,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. in the announcement.
The Department of Justice’s efforts are aimed at rooting out biased practices that are condemned as unfair and that can create distrust and violate civil rights. The guidelines aim to prohibit bias based on the use of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and now disability.
“Fair and impartial law enforcement practices are smart and effective law enforcement practices,” the guidelines state.
Details about those characteristics can be used, however, if investigators receive such information along with additional, detailed context that shows it is reliable and related to a particular incident or investigation.
For example, investigators could not single out people of a particular race or religion based on a report of a possible assault without any details about the date, time, or full description of the suspect.
Training on the new guidelines will have to begin within a year for people newly covered by the guidelines, as well as for local law enforcement who will work with federal agencies on task forces.
To ensure the rules are enforced, law enforcement agencies must begin tracking complaints alleging bias within six months. They must also create data-driven research projects to track how the guidelines are being implemented and report on that research within a year.