AG ACTIONS UPDATE: Democratic AG Leadership in Response to Calls for Police Accountability and Reform

June 22, 2020

Democratic Attorneys General are providing critical leadership in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police. They are listening to Black Americans, meeting with community leaders, working with state legislative leaders, and taking proactive steps to address police brutality, pursue reform, and rebuild trust.

Here is the latest from Democratic AGs:

FEDERAL ACTION

Last Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Justice in Policing Act includes language granting state Attorneys General the direct authority to step in and hold law enforcement agencies accountable under federal civil rights laws. This direct authority is especially critical given that the Trump-Barr Department of Justice has failed in their responsibility to hold police departments accountable for misconduct. DAGA Co-Chairs Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum applauded the bill’s passage noting, “Democratic Attorneys General stand ready to act, and it’s critical we are equipped with the necessary authority and resources to help make our country more just.”

STATE ACTION

  • Iowa AG Tom Miller supported a bipartisan bill passed by the Iowa General Assembly, saying, “[this bill] can lead to real reform” and calling the passage “a step forward.” After unanimous passage in both the state House and state Senate, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bipartisan police reform bill into law that prohibits the use of chokeholds in arrests, prevents the hiring of officers who were fired for misconduct or have previous felony convictions, mandates yearly anti-bias and de-escalation training for law enforcement, and grants Iowa AG Tom Miller the authority to prosecute a criminal offense committed by an officer if their actions result in the death of another person.
  • California AG Xavier Becerra announced a broad police reform agenda focused on improving use-of-force procedures, addressing issues around bias in policing, and increasing accountability and transparency. These proposals build upon previous actions and investigations conducted by AG Becerra. AG Becerra also urged local law enforcement in California to adopt a list of reforms including a ban on chokeholds, new use-of-force standards, a prohibition on officers firing on moving vehicles, and new training for police dogs, all which align with the #8CantWait campaign.
  • Michigan AG Dana Nessel proposed seven reforms for the state geared towards increasing transparency and ensuring accountability in law enforcement. AG Nessel said, “We must do more than just condemn bigotry and acts of excessive force committed by law enforcement officers. We must act.” The proposed reforms range from mandating law enforcement agencies maintain all disciplinary records to requiring the creation of a misconduct registry. AG Nessel plans to meet with state legislators, advocacy groups, and community leaders to discuss how to make these proposed reforms a reality.
  • Nevada AG Aaron Ford sent state lawmakers a list of 73 policy proposals for consideration in the next legislative session. The list of proposals includes banning chokeholds and granting the Attorney General’s office the power to investigate police department practices. According to AG Ford said he put forth these proposals “in anticipation of leading a conversation on tangible outcomes that can be considered.”
  • Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro called on state lawmakers to ban chokeholds by police officers. “In my office, and this is important. Chokeholds are not used as a restraint,” said AG Shapiro. “We don’t train our agents to use chokeholds and we don’t use them period. This practice isn’t included in the training that most commonwealth police officers receive.” Earlier in the week, AG Shapiro formed a coalition of key stakeholders calling on the state legislature to the end of the practice of law enforcement agencies unknowingly hiring officers with documented patterns of excessive use of force or other misconduct. The coalition includes the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, and a number of prominent District Attorneys in the Commonwealth. 
  • Rhode Island AG Peter Neronha sponsored police reform legislation earlier this year that was passed by the state Senate Judiciary Committee last week. “Improving Rhode Island’s civil rights protections was paramount when this bill was proposed at the beginning of the legislative session and, as our nation’s collective consciousness continues to struggle with the systemic racial injustices prevalent in our society, is even more critical now,” said AG Neronha. The AG also plans to unveil a new protocol for reviews by the Attorney General of “police use of deadly force, use of force resulting in serious bodily injury, and excessive use of force.”

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION

  • Nevada AG Aaron Ford and New York AG Tish James joined the College Democrats to kick-off its Black Lives Matter week of education and advocacy. The panel focused on the important role protesting plays in our democracy. AG James and AG Ford offered professional and personal perspectives on what it means to protest and how to effectively move a cause forward.
  • Nevada AG Aaron Ford hosted his fourth “Justice and Injustice” panel this past Saturday, June 20th with organizations representing law enforcement officers and executives. The panel focused on how these organizations are responding to calls for reform.

PUBLIC OPINION OF RECENT EVENTS

A new survey of Minnesotans found that a majority of the public feel the “four now-fired Minneapolis police officers have now been “charged appropriately” in the killing of George Floyd.” Additionally, 63% of those surveyed say the protests that followed were justified. Last month, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison was appointed as the special prosecutor in the investigation into the killing of George Floyd and upgraded the initial charges.

As chief legal officers, their criminal justice powers vary from state to state, yet Democratic Attorneys General stand united in their commitment to fight for justice and equality.

For a look at last week’s actions to transform policing, check out the note linked here.