Community leaders call on Justice Department to ramp up police investigations

Community leaders call on Justice Department to ramp up police investigations

Elected officials and advocacy groups from cities across the country are calling for the pace of police investigation announcements by the Justice Department to increase.

Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced pattern or practice investigations against the Louisville Metro and Minneapolis police departments following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in March and May 2020, respectively. These investigations — which may result in court-ordered consent decrees — came after four years of silence from the previous administration regarding police accountability.

Since those announcements, the district attorney of Westchester County, New York, and the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, have called on Garland and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to swing their attention to their municipalities.

Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah asked the Justice Department on Friday to step in to investigate the Mount Vernon Police Department after her office’s criminal investigation found “disturbing allegations of patterns of inappropriate and potentially unlawful conduct by several former and current members of the police department.”

Rocah’s probe came after a yearlong investigation by Gothamist/WNYC where a series of recordings made by a whistleblower exposed a narcotics unit within the department.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther initiated the call on Wednesday for the Justice Department’s crackdown. Ginther said in a letter that he is inviting the Justice Department to issue findings that evaluate the police department’s current reform efforts, assess its operations, offer remedies to address deficiencies and “provide an environment that fosters trust between the Division of Police and the residents of the City of Columbus.”

A coalition of dozens of Ohio-based organizations, including the American Economic Liberties Project, co-signed a letter on Thursday to Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta that said the city’s settlement with the Justice Department in 2002 “was grossly inadequate.”

“The issues of policing, it goes well beyond just killings, while though those are very tragic and horrible, but it’s the routine harassment that a lot of Black people have experienced in the community over pretty much this entire history,” Morgan Harper, the senior adviser for Economic Liberties, told CNN on Monday. “And so this coalition, in addition to making a formal request to DOJ, is also giving an opportunity for community members to come in and tell their stories of run-ins with the police that have felt discriminatory.”

CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

During Garland’s announcements for the Louisville and Minneapolis police departments, he said the designated prosecutors will connect with members of the community for insight.

Christopher 2X, the founder of the Game Changers in Louisville, told CNN on Monday that the federal prosecutors had reached out to him immediately after Garland’s announcement on April 26 about a “broad scope of topics” but most importantly the struggles “the young people have with police.”

Christopher 2X also told CNN that he referred the Justice Department prosecutors to the families of previous police brutality cases.

He says he was informed that their conversations “may go on for a year.”

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