Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2003
(202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888


Action Fulfills President Bush’S Promise

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Acting on President George W. Bush’s directive that racial profiling is “wrong and we will end it in America,” the Justice Department today issued a policy guidance to ban federal law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling. As a result of today’s directive, Americans of every race and ethnicity can be confident that generalized stereotypes will have no place in the routine work of federal law enforcement.

President Bush directed Attorney General John Ashcroft on February 27, 2001 to review the use of race by federal law enforcement agents and to “develop specific recommendations to end racial profiling.” Implementing that directive, on March 1, 2001, the Attorney General directed the Acting Deputy Attorney General to review comprehensively the policies and practices of federal law enforcement agencies to determine the nature and extent of any racial profiling by those agencies. The Attorney General also directed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd, Jr. to draft specific recommendations addressing potential racial profiling by federal law enforcement. Following the completion of the study, the Attorney General forwarded to the President a report and recommendations to ban racial profiling in federal law enforcement.

The President accepted those recommendations and directed the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights to distribute the racial profiling guidance to all federal law enforcement, and to require that all federal law enforcement agencies review their policies, practices, operations, and training to ensure that they comply with the guidance.

“This new guidance follows through on President Bush’s call to ban racial profiling in America so we can continue moving toward a more fair and just society,” said Ralph Boyd, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “It builds on the efforts our federal law enforcement community has already taken to stop the abuses of a few without hindering the work of our brave officers who protect us every day - often at great risk.”

The racial profiling guidance bars federal law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling -- even where such profiling would otherwise be permitted by the Constitution and laws. Specifically, the guidance provides that in making routine law enforcement decisions -- such as deciding which motorists to stop for traffic infractions -- consideration of the

driver's race or ethnicity is absolutely forbidden. Of course, federal law enforcement officers may continue to rely upon specific descriptions of the physical appearance of criminal suspects, if a specific suspect description exists in that particular case.

Likewise, when conducting investigations of specific crimes, federal law enforcement officials are prohibited from relying on generalized racial or ethnic stereotypes. A federal law enforcement agent may use race or ethnicity only in extremely narrow circumstances -- when there is trustworthy information, relevant to the locality or time frame at issue, that links persons of a particular race or ethnicity to an identified criminal incident, scheme or organization. These rigorous standards are designed to ensure that racial and ethnic stereotypes will never be used to make investigative decisions, but that law enforcement officers can rely on specific and trustworthy information necessary to catch the criminals who victimize people of all races and ethnic groups.

Finally, since September 11, 2001, the President has emphasized that federal law enforcement personnel must use all available and legitimate tools to prevent future catastrophic terrorist attacks. Terrorist identification is an essential component of the nation’s security and requires heightened vigilance which, under the appropriate circumstances, may include consideration of factors such as travel patterns, visits to countries known to harbor or support terrorist operations, suspicious identity documents, the country that issued the person a passport, sources of support, and other probative factors. The racial profiling guidance, therefore, recognizes that race and ethnicity may be used in terrorist identification, but only to the extent permitted by the nation’s laws and the Constitution.

The racial profiling guidance has been adopted by the President as executive policy for federal law enforcement, and governs all federal law enforcement activities effective immediately.

Racial Profiling Fact Sheet