Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is issuing statewide guidelines to prevent discriminatory profiling by law enforcement officers based on race, gender and other characteristics.
Frosh, who has scheduled a Tuesday news conference about the initiative, said the guidelines are similar to guidance issued in December by the U.S. Justice Department, which called on states to adopt their own. Frosh said Maryland is the first state to issue its own guidance.
"We want this memorandum to create the standard for how law enforcement operates in Maryland,'' Frosh said.
Frosh, a Democrat, said the guidance goes significantly further than current Maryland law. First, it defines discriminatory profiling not only based on race and ethnicity, but also on national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and religion. It also applies to a broader range of police actions beyond traffic stops, including routine police operations and ongoing investigations.
The announcement comes as state lawmakers and police reform activists are considering changes in the law to increase police accountability in the aftermath of rioting in April after the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in Baltimore police custody.
While Frosh noted that police have difficult jobs and put themselves in harm's way to protect the public, he said there is too much mistrust about how they go about their work, and steps must be taken to rebuild trust between police and citizens.
"It is sadly clear that those relationships have become badly frayed - particularly in black communities, but in many, many places,'' Frosh said.
Local police departments would need to adopt the guidelines for them to be enforceable. Once departments adopt the guidance, violations could be enforced by those agencies.
The attorney general's office will convene training sessions in coming months. It also will ask local agencies to incorporate the statewide guidelines.
Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis described the guidelines as an important first step.
"I'm committed to making sure that the standards being released today are part of our practices - for the benefit of our officers and our community,'' Davis said in a statement.
Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, said he was pleased the attorney general modeled Maryland's guidelines after the Justice Department guidance.
"African-American communities have been victims of profiling for far too long, and this is another step that we can build on to ending the practice in Maryland because we know that good policing can be done without improper and discriminatory police tactics,'' Stansbury.