Attorney General Issues New Police Profiling Standards

OCEAN CITY — In an effort to rebuild the ever-eroding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday unveiled new guidance aimed at putting an end to discriminatory profiling.

Attorney General Brian Frosh on Wednesday issued a new Guidance Memorandum to End Discriminatory Profiling by Law Enforcement in Maryland, essentially broadening the characteristics that may not be used to single out certain groups during daily police activity. The AG’s memo on profiling comes after the U.S. Department of Justice issued its own guidance on ending profiling by law enforcement across the nation.

The Department of Justice issued its broad guidelines and encouraged the individual states to develop and adopt similar guidelines to put an end to discriminatory profiling. With Frosh’s release of a new memo this week, Maryland became the first state to answer that call and adopt more stringent profiling standards at the state level.

“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.

Under the guidance memorandum issued this week, 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. The memorandum enhances the existing standards followed by law enforcement agencies throughout Maryland and brings them in line with the new federal standards.

“Police do a dangerous, difficult job and they do it well,” said Frosh. “But experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage. It discourages cooperation by law-abiding citizens, it generates bogus leads that turn attention away from bona fide criminal conduct and it erodes community trust.”

The AG’s guidance on profiling goes far beyond existing Maryland law in several respects. For example, it prohibits discriminatory profiling not only on the basis of race and ethnicity, but also on the basis of national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and religion. It also applies to a far broader range of police actions and decision, not just traffic stops, including both routine police operations and ongoing investigations.

The Attorney General’s Office is urging each state and local law enforcement agency to adopt the new guidelines into the general orders under which they operate. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office will convene training sessions in the coming months and educate state and local law enforcement agencies on the new guidelines.

Closer to home, OCPD spokesperson Lindsay Richard said this week the department already follows much of the information included in the AG’s new guidelines on profiling and has policies in place to “set parameters regarding the use of profiling as a law enforcement tool.” Richard provided the OCPD’s general order regarding discriminatory profiling.

“The department is committed to the protection of human and civil rights for all people and to carrying out law enforcement responsibilities in a nondiscriminatory manner in accordance with the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights,” the OCPD general order on profiling reads. “The department will assure that every person is treated fairly and provided equal protection under the law. Officers shall not take any law enforcement actions based solely on race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion of cultural group.”

The OCPD’s general order defines a variety of daily police operations where discriminatory profiling of any kind will not be tolerated.

“All law enforcement actions, such as traffic stops, investigative stops, arrests, searches and seizures will be based on reasonable and articulable suspicion or probably cause supported by specific facts that the person contacted or detained has committed or is about to commit a crime, or is engaged in suspicious activity, or is presenting a threat to the safety of others or themselves as required by state statutes and the U.S. Constitution,” the OCPD bias-based profiling general order reads.

Meanwhile, civil rights organizations were already applauding the Attorney General’s new standards of discriminatory profiling this week.

“The Maryland State Conference of the NAACP is pleaded that the Attorney General has chosen to model the state guidelines related to profiling after Justice Department general guidelines,” said Maryland NAACP President Gerald Stansbury. “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.”