The state of Maryland took a step in the battle to address discriminatory profiling by law enforcement. On August 25, 2015, the state’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, issued guidelines that clearly define the characteristics that officers may not legally use as guidance when interacting with citizens; this makes Maryland the first state to do so. Per the memo, “officers in any law enforcement agency in Maryland may not consider race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity to any degree during routine police operations.”
“Police do a dangerous, difficult job, and they do it well. But experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage,” Attorney Frosh said in a statement about the guidelines. “It discourage[s] cooperation by law-abiding citizens, it generates bogus leads that turn attention away from bona fide criminal conduct, and it erodes community trust. The memorandum we are issuing today is meant to put an end to profiling of all kinds, which will help repair the frayed relationships between police and many in the community by making mutual respect the norm in everyday police encounters.”
The guidance is in response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s December 2014 adoption of a racial profiling policy, which only impacted federal officers and agencies. The state attorney general’s office notes that it is not a law that can be enforced on the state level, but rather a set of recommendations that police departments around the state should adopt and incorporate. There is already a state law that addresses racial and ethnic profiling at traffic stops, but the new guidelines expand both the classes that can’t be discriminated against and the relevant interactions to which they apply.