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Holder Unveils Revisions to Limits on Profiling by Federal Law Enforcement

Profiling on the basis of religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity by federal law enforcement agencies will be banned, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The draft changes have been under review for months and Attorney General Eric Holder was eager to issue them before he steps down.

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Attorney General Eric Holder
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Attorney General Eric Holder

The new policy means that federal law enforcement officers cannot use these characteristics as the basis for making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions like traffic stops. The older rules, in effect since 2003, barred making those stops on the basis of race or ethnicity.

The new policy will apply to several components of the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE and the Coast Guard, but not to airport screening or scrutiny of travelers arriving at the border.

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The Justice Department says the revision goes beyond what is otherwise required by federal law. It is the result of a five-year process.

"Profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective, because it wastes precious resources and undermines the public trust," Holder said. "Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we've seen at the local level — and the widespread concerns about trust in the criminal justice process which so many have raised throughout the nation — it's imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices."

The new policy also does not apply to the protective mission of the Secret Service.

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According to the DHS, its exceptions are warranted "given the unique nature of parts of the DHS mission — most notably in protecting our borders and securing our skies."

Holder was due to lead a conference call with local law enforcement leaders from across the country on Monday to brief them on the new policy and encourage local authorities to adopt it.

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"This policy represents a dramatic enhancement of protections for all Americans, while enabling federal law enforcement officers to continue working — consistent with the laws and the Constitution — to protect and defend our safety," the Justice Department added in a statement.