Published January, 2015

Guidance for Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Regarding the Use of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, National Origin, Religion, Sexual Orientation, or Gender Identity, U.S. Department of Justice (2014)

This guidance supersedes the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. It applies to federal law enforcement officers performing federal law enforcement activities, including those related to national security and intelligence, defining both the circumstances in which federal law enforcement officers may take into account a person’s race and ethnicity, and when gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity may be taken into account. This guidance also applies to state and local law enforcement officers while they are participating in federal law enforcement task forces.

The guidance outlines two standards. The first prohibits profiling by federal law enforcement officers for routine or spontaneous actions such as ordinary traffic stops except in response to a specific suspect description. The second limits federal law enforcement’s use of profiling in all other activities to situations where reliable information links persons of a particular listed characteristic to an identified criminal incident, scheme, or organization, a threat to national or homeland security, a violation of federal immigration law, or an authorized intelligence activity, and when reasonably merited by circumstances including time considerations and the nature of the potential harm.

The guidance offers examples and discussions of situations where these restrictions on profiling may or may not apply.