By Donna Owens
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Reuters) - Maryland's attorney general on Tuesday issued the first U.S. state guidelines that bar arbitrary police profiling of races and minority groups.
The guidelines from Attorney General Brian Frosh are aimed at helping repair relations with minorities. They outline when officers can consider racial, ethnic, sexual orientation or other characteristics during routine police work and investigations.
The guidance comes amid a national and local debate about police treatment of minorities. One of the most prominent cases was the death of a black man in Baltimore in April from an injury in police custody, which sparked protests and rioting. Six Baltimore officers have been charged in the case.
"We believe we can improve the administration of justice. Experience shows us that improper profiling by police does terrible damage,” Frosh, a Democrat who took office in January, told a news conference.
The goal is to repair "frayed relationships between police and many in the community during everyday encounters," particularly black and Hispanic males, Frosh said.
He was flanked by representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The new state guidelines follow similar ones for federal officers issued late in 2014 by the U.S. Justice Department.
Maryland was the first state to adopt them and Frosh said h is office had begun work on them before the Baltimore unrest.
Under Frosh's memorandum, profiling during routine police work based on characteristics such as religion, race or sexual orientation is barred.
During criminal investigations, police may take the factors into account if officers have evidence that those characteristics are directly relevant.
Some limits on profiling, such as using race as the sole factor for stopping a motorist, already exist under state law. Many police departments also have their own policies against bias in policing.
Gerald Stansbury, the president of the Maryland Conference of the NAACP, called the move "a great step in the right direction." He said the guidelines needed to be coupled with police training.
Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement that he was committed to ensuring the standards were part of his officers' practices.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott)