Press Releases

In Letter, CBC Chairman Criticizes Attorney General for Review of Consent Decrees

“As you may recall, we opposed your nomination… It is clear by your recent actions that our opposition was well founded.”

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Washington, DC, April 5, 2017 | comments
"As you may recall, we opposed your nomination… It is clear by your recent actions that our opposition was well founded."
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Today, the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticizing him for his decision to review consent decrees between the Department of Justice and police departments found to have a “pattern and practice” of violating civil rights.
 
The Chairman also criticized the Attorney General for his decision to waste taxpayer resources on reviewing all DOJ activities and his decision to emphasize data collection on crime and criminals but not on police and community interactions.
 
The letter is attached. Excerpts from the letter are below. 
 
Consent Decrees/Police Accountability
 
“While we agree that the vast majority of our nation’s law enforcement officers serve their communities honorably, the ‘misdeeds of individual bad actors’ cannot explain away department-wide practices that discriminate against African Americans, such as trespass arrest forms with ‘black male’ pre-filled, as was the case in the Baltimore Police Department. Despite your incorrect notion that ‘it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,’ it is clearly your responsibility to ‘ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.’  Consent decrees are a critical tool in the Department’s role of overseeing local and state law enforcement organizations and they must be utilized aggressively to protect the civil rights of all Americans.
 
“Nonetheless, if you are reviewing all agency activities, we implore you to give all due consideration in review of officer-involved shootings, deaths in custody, and reports of police brutality or excessive force. No American should be afraid to call the police for fear of becoming victimized by the very people sent to protect them. Unfortunately, for far too many African Americans, this is exactly the reality they face.  The relationships between African-American communities and their police departments across the nation have hovered in a state of constant volatility for generations.  These tensions have grown in recent years following the high-profile shootings of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police, many of which have been recorded for the world to see.  To add insult to an unbearable injury, few officers are held accountable for their actions. To mend the broken bond between police and communities, there must be accountability. That accountability cannot just be local, as you have suggested. Instead, communities need to know they can rely upon the Department of Justice to investigate civil rights violations wherever they may occur, including among the ranks of the men and women in blue.”
 
Data Collection
 
“In that vein, the Department of Justice must collect data to shed light on the interactions between police and the communities they serve – from searches and arrests to police shootings and allegations of misconduct. Ironically, you call on the collection and analysis of data around ‘crime and criminals,’ but you make no such request for analysis of the actions of law enforcement.  You may be interested to learn that the CBC recently hosted a forum discussing policing and criminal justice reform. In that discussion, Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, aptly shared the analogy that if an individual is serious about improving their personal finances, they set a budget. If you are serious, at all, about addressing the racial disparities in policing across this country, you will lead the Department of Justice in collecting and analyzing data to shed light on the state of interactions between police and communities.”
 
30-Year Record/Russia
 
“As you may recall, we opposed your nomination to serve as Attorney General because, over more than three decades of public service, you have developed a questionable record on issues of justice, equality, and civil rights. It is clear by your recent actions that our opposition was well founded, as you have demonstrated a complete disregard for your responsibility to protect the rights of all Americans.  It is worth noting that your actions are now clouded by your sworn testimony that you never met with Russian agents, but in fact did meet with Russian agents. Accordingly, we are skeptical of your oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It is our sincere hope that you reverse course and prove us all wrong.”
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