The new Justice Department guidelines governing profiling by federal law enforcement officers will have no effect on FBI practices, its director, James B. Comey, said Tuesday.
On Monday, Comey’s boss, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., said the new guidelines were “a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law enforcement officials.”
But at a press briefing Tuesday, Comey said that the FBI, the lead federal law enforcement agency, is already in compliance with the new guidelines and strongly asserted that no changes were required.
The guidelines “don’t have any effect on the FBI,” he said
Asked whether the new guidance would change anything to FBI does now, Comey said, “No, nothing. It doesn’t require any change to our policies or procedures.”
He said the FBI field manual for agents would not be changed because it was already in compliance with the guidelines, which expand restrictions on racial and ethnic profiling to cover religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.
He defended the FBI practice of “mapping” communities to identify neighborhoods by race, religion or national origin. Civil rights leaders were critical Monday of the failure of the Justice Department to curtail the practice.
“We need to be able to understand the communities we serve and protect,” Comey said. “When there is a threat from outside the country, it makes sense to know who inside the country might be able to help law enforcement.”
“It is about knowing the neighborhoods: what’s it like, where’s the industry, where are the businesses, are there particular groups of folks who live in a particular area?”