The modern world is notable for its cultural diversity: people of different backgrounds and beliefs communicate, interact, and live together. However, they do not always get on well. Discrimination is one of the most pressing problems within the society that pertains to numerous spheres, and the present-day criminal justice system is not an exception. To improve the situation and achieve fairness, some changes have been introduced recently.
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This paper examines the Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, the new document aimed at the development of a new approach to equality, in the context of the FBI’s activity. The reasons for the modification, its implementation, and the attitude towards the change are discussed. Finally, the assessment of the results is carried out.
The shooting death of Michael Brown provoked an outcry and demonstrated that attention should be drawn to racial issues and, more broadly, equality regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, and so on. Under these circumstances, Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, announced the release of the updated Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance intended to create diligent new standards and robust safeguards (Jawando and Parsons par. 3).
The previous document, the Department of Justice’s 2003 Guidance, concentrated on the racial profiling practice as the unacceptable measure. As a criterion in “conducting stops, searches, and other law enforcement investigative procedures,” it proved to be ineffective and wrong (U.S. Department of Justice Guidance Regarding the Use of Race 2). However, other factors, for example, religious identity, were not considered: people could be discriminated against on grounds other than race.
In comparison, the nowadays document focuses on different issues, namely race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity (U.S. Department of Justice Guidance for Federal Law 1). As the document implies, these characteristics may not be used in relation to spontaneous law enforcement decisions while other types of activities allow their usage in order to detect crimes. Thus, the recent guidance is more detailed and extensive than its antecedent.
The document introduced by DOJ refers to different agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Even before the implementation of the revised guidance, the organization represented by the director, James B. Comey, expressed doubt that the new guidelines would incorporate changes to the FBI daily practice because the FBI was already in compliance with the suggested measures (Phelps par. 3).
It may be considered a sort of passive resistance: FBI did not see the relevance of the new document in terms of its work and demonstrated that they valued equality without any fiat. Later on, the agency’s activities de facto remained the same and continue to be identical to the old conditions now. As a result, the FBI frequently becomes the object of criticism since communities under the FBI’s jurisdiction are “mapped” according to people’s race, religion, or national origin as before (Phelps par. 7). However, the organization explains this issue by the necessity to know the neighborhoods and identify potential assistance to law enforcement. In other words, the implementation of the guidance did not produce any actual changes.
In connection with the new DOJ document, society expected the FBI as well as other law enforcement agencies to become more attentive to racial, gender, religious, and other issues. However, the current situation is far from being perfect. One can state that the public response is negative to a greater extent, and the revised guidance still meets with substantial resistance from ordinary people and legal and civil rights organizations.
Advancing Justice-LA, one of the largest legal and civil rights organizations for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, exemplifies this tendency: they express their disappointment concerning the DOJ’s guidance (Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles par. 1). According to their opinion, the document prescribes targeting certain communities and groups under the guise of the common advantage. Consequently, the FBI infiltrates mosques and other places “through unscrupulous informants in thinly-based “national security” investigations that are often formulated after the fact” (Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles par. 3).
It is often estimated that the FBI and other organizations use profiling in the name of “national security,” but they actually go beyond the verge of their powers and address humiliating and harmful practices that make people feel less safe (The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance par. 4). In fact, religious issues have become more urgent nowadays. War on terror also illustrates this statement: residents of Arab and Muslim communities are regularly searched and interrogated by the FBI for the sole reason they belong to these neighborhoods. Thus, the new guidance does not work.
To sum it up, the necessity to enhance the criminal justice system and change the present-day situation in terms of discrimination is obvious. As a part of this urge, the Department of Justice introduced the revised Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one of the agencies that are required to implement these changes. However, the change attempt cannot be considered successful. The document provides some loopholes that often lead to the violation of human rights. Apparently, there is much work to do to improve the situation and address all people appropriately.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. Advancing Justice – LA Responds to DOJ Revised Guidance Regarding Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. 2014. Web.
Jawando, Michele L., and Chelsea Parsons. 4 Ideas That Could Begin to Reform the Criminal Justice System and Improve Police-Community Relations. 2014. Web.
Phelps, Timothy M. “Comey Says New Profiling Guidelines Will Have No Effect on the FBI.” Los Angeles Times. 2014. Web.
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The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. End the Use of Racial and Religious Profiling. 2015. Web.
U.S. Department of Justice. Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. 2003. Web.