WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — The Obama administration has issued new guidelines intended to stop federal law enforcement officials from stopping people based on race, religion, national origin or other characteristics.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the hope is that local police departments will adopt the same protocols.
But although the guidelines came amid a backdrop of a number of high-profile headline-grabbing cases, the truth is that they are five years in the making. They were not drafted because of the police shooting that killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, nor because of the apparent police chokehold that allegedly led to Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island.
Still, Attorney General Eric Holder said the guidelines could not come at a more important time.
“I think that we as a nation are still too reluctant to talk about the issues of race,” Holder said.
The new guidelines were issued by Holder’s Justice Department, and apply to agents working for the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They forbid people from stopping people merely because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation or their nationality.
Holder noted that the guidelines came amid a backdrop of national protest – locally about a grand jury declining to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Garner case – and also about the Brown case, the Tamir Rice case in Cleveland, and other police cases.
“We talk about these conversations when we have incidents; when we have controversies, and we need something that I think is longer-lasting,” Holder said. “We need to talk to each other about race in times of calm, so that when we do have these incidents – these tragedies – we are much better able to engage with one another and come up with productive solutions.”
The new rules replace guidelines put in place 11 years ago. But in a nod to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and rampant terror activity throughout the world, federal agents can still take race, ethnicity and other factors into consideration if they have received particular information about a specific or about a security threat, at our airports or borders, for example.
“Those components that are part of the Department of Homeland Security will have — they have unique needs — and things that they’re going to have to work their way through,” Holder said. “We will see if there’s going to be the need for further revisions with regards to these guidelines.”
The Obama administration envisions the guidelines as a roadmap for local police departments, and it may very well be that there is a bigger effect on local officers than federal officials, Kramer reported.
Local officers are the ones primarily responsible for day-to-day interaction with people, including traffic stops and calls to 911.
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