Statement from DAGA Co-Chairs on House Judiciary Committee Passage of the Justice in Policing Act

June 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.—  The Democratic Attorneys General Association Co-Chairs Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum released the following statement following the passage of the Justice in Policing bill out of the House Judiciary Committee. According to the latest reports, police reform legislation is slated to be considered in the Senate next week.

Statement from Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum, Co-Chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association:

“We applaud Chairman Nadler and Representative Bass for their leadership in moving swiftly to address issues of police misconduct and accountability that are of grave concern to all of us.  We also thank House Democrats for acknowledging the crucial role of State Attorneys General in the fight for justice. The bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee gives State Attorneys General the authority to step in and hold local law enforcement agencies accountable under federal civil rights laws, especially as the Trump-Barr Department of Justice continues to abdicate its responsibilities. 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.”

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

  • On June 4th, a coalition of 18 Democratic AGs sent a letter urging Congress to expand the law enforcement misconduct section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which was enacted following the severe beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police Department officers in 1991.
    • The coalition argues that State Attorneys General should have authority to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, particularly in the event that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fails to use its authority to act.
    • Additionally, the coalition is asking that State Attorneys General be granted authority to gather data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.
  • On June 5th, California AG Xavier Becerra sent a letter urging congressional leaders to grant other states the same authority that the California Department of Justice has to conduct pattern-or-practice investigations, allowing state AGs to investigate and resolve patterns of unconstitutional policing.
  • This type of authority is particularly crucial given the direction of the Trump Department of Justice.
    • Since 2017, the US Department of Justice has curtailed federal law enforcement’s ability to reform local police departments accused of abuses and abandoned collaborative police reform efforts.
    • In a March 31, 2017 memo, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote, “Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing. It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”
    • Since January 2017, the Trump DOJ has initiated zero pattern-or-practice investigations into police conduct and has not entered any consent decrees.
  • For more information on the work Democratic Attorneys General are doing to transform policing in America, check out this memo linked here.