U.S. Department of Justice Abandons Proposal to Prohibit Federal Agents from Taking Nationality into Account for Criminal Investigations
The Biden administration recently announced updated anti-discrimination guidelines for federal law enforcement agencies that did not include the previously proposed ban on considering a suspect’s nationality or ethnicity in criminal investigations. This was a disappointment to some progressive groups, who had hoped the final guidance would include nationality as a protected characteristic.
Despite the lack of inclusion of this particular characteristic, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland emphasized that the new rules will still effectively prohibit racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies. He said the guidelines will help ensure that officers are engaging in lawful and appropriate conduct, and that people will be treated fairly regardless of their appearance or background.
The new policies cover federal law enforcement officials from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and U.S. Marshals service. They include a mandate that law enforcement agents must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause before conducting searches, questionings, stops or arrests, as well as transparency requirements for recording and tracking demographic information of those they come into contact with. Additionally, the guidelines emphasize the importance of ensuring that law enforcement officers are properly trained on the use of deadly and non-deadly force, and how to avoid physical confrontations and respect the rights of those they serve.
The updated anti-discrimination guidelines come shortly after the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act early this year, which seeks to bring widespread reform to policing practices by banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants, creating a police misconduct database, and more. Taken together, these measures could have a powerful impact on how federal law enforcement officers go about their work and seek to ensure that everyone is treated with respect.
Ultimately, while the Biden administration’s anti-discrimination guidelines do not explicitly bar law enforcement from considering a suspect’s nationality or ethnicity in criminal investigations, it does provide a comprehensive set of mandates that will help ensure all people are treated fairly and with respect. This is an important step in the right direction, and should be commended as part of a larger effort to create more equitable justice systems.