U.S. likely to widen ban on profiling of criminal suspects

Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:01pm EST
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By David Ingram

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice is likely to broaden a ban on investigators profiling criminal suspects by race to include religion, country of origin, gender and sexual orientation, a person familiar with an internal review said on Thursday.

Expanding the ban would mark a major policy shift for U.S. law enforcement and would address a frequent complaint by minorities in America who feel they are singled out for unwarranted extra scrutiny.

It was not certain when a final decision would be made, according to the person familiar with the review, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal agents have been prohibited from profiling suspects by race in almost all cases since 2003, but complaints persist of the unwarranted targeting of religious or other groups, including Muslims and Sikhs.

Eric Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general, began a review of department policy in late 2009, the same year he took office as an appointee of President Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States.

"We've all seen heart-wrenching stories of misguided racial profiling," Holder said in a June 2010 speech to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

"But we must always remember that virtually all of our nation's law enforcement officers serve their communities honorably - and risk their personal safety - every day."

He said at the time that the Department of Justice would not "stand idly by" as some law enforcement departments engage in discriminatory policing.   Continued...