Last month’s police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri revealed to many Americans for the first time how unaccountable police have grown. Around the country, local police forces are effectively militarized, widely discriminate against people of color, and suppress democratic dissent despite its constitutional protection.
This week’s announcement of new forthcoming federal guidance by the Justice Department addressing racial profiling — as well as Holder’s decision to leave the Department — are welcome signs. Both, however, come with disturbing implications.
Better late than never
Proposed changes to the Justice’s Department guidance to law enforcement agencies include prohibiting religious profiling, and closing longstanding loopholes allowing blatant profiling in the context of national security and border integrity. These are intelligent choices, not only for the rights at stake, but also for the national security and border integrity interests that profiling also undermines.
The timing, however, is striking. First, why are these changes being implemented on the eve of the Attorney General leaving office? Without being codified in law, the new standards will survive only at the whim of the AG’s successors.