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Maryland Issues Guidance To Address Police Profiling

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Maryland became the first in the nation Tuesday to adopt guidelines against police profiling---they include race, as well as sexual orientation---and that led profile leaders to share their stories of being profiled.

Investigator Mike Hellgren has more on what the new guidelines mean for officers.

They clarify the law---that race, for example, can't be the only factor for pulling someone over---or stopping everyone in a neighborhood after a crime. Baltimore's interim police commissioner not only said the department will follow them, but praised the guidelines.

New guidelines from Maryland's Attorney General Brian Frosh condemn police profiling, calling the practice crude, careless and unfair.

"They can still act on bona fide leaders and bona fide intelligence. They can do great police work, but you can't just stop anyone of a certain race or a certain ethnicity," he said.

Guidelines provide specific examples. After a report of a serious crime, police can't question every suspect of a certain race in a neighborhood but can't stop people for suspicious behavior. Another example: officers searching for drugs at the airport can't simply stop people because of their race---but instead on factors like how they pay for tickets and the type of luggage they have.

"Every person who lives here---no matter in a high-crime or high-income area---deserves to feel the same sense of security, justice and freedom," said Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.

For Alsobrooks, this is personal. She told WJZ about being pulled over---she says---because she drove a nice car or singled out while simply waiting for her parents after a high school dance.

"Those lights shining on me, that person yelling through that microphone...I still remember it. It affects you. It really causes you, as a citizen, to say, `Am I second class?'" she said.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Legget said he was pulled over and berated while putting up campaign signs a few months ago.

"An officer got out, about 6'4", and immediately began yelling and screaming at me in profanity-laced words that you would not believe," he said.

Legget later got an apology.

"`I did not know it was you, Mr. Legget,'" he said. "What difference should that have made?"

The guidelines go beyond current Maryland law to stop profiling based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

Attorney General Brian Frosh hopes this will provide healing, especially in Baltimore.

"We certainly hope that will be the impact of this," Frosh said. "That it will not only lead to effective policing but also some healing of the rifts between law enforcement and the communities they serve."

Some police departments, like Prince George's, have already begun enforcing these guidelines. The attorney general's office will hold training sessions throughout the state. The federal government already started enforcing similar guidelines last year.

For more information on the guidelines, click here.

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