Judge allows Trump police panel to publish report, but with disclaimer

Washington Post/Pool

A judge ruled Monday to allow President Trump’s police panel to publish its report and recommendations as long as it includes a disclaimer that the report was drafted in violation of federal open meeting laws.

U.S. District Judge John Bates, who was appointed by George W. Bush, issued his decision after he temporarily blocked the law enforcement commission from releasing its report last month.

Bates initially halted the report’s publication after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF) filed a lawsuit arguing that the panel disobeyed the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires “advisory” committee meetings to be “open to the public.”

On Monday, he said he agreed the commission “certainly has not met FACA’s transparency and fair balance requirements” but added that “serious First Amendment concerns combined with other factors counsel against enjoining publication,” according to Reuters

Attorney General William Barr announced the policing commission in January to “conduct a modern fresh evaluation of the salient issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they protect” after Trump issued an executive order, according to previous court documents. 

The panel was instructed to “study crime—how we can reduce it and how we can restore the public confidence in law enforcement to its rightful place.” 

The report was supposed to be given to the International Association of Chiefs of Police at the group’s annual conference before Bates blocked its release. 

The NAACP LDF’s lawsuit claimed that the panel went against FACA by not allowing civil rights groups to provide input at public hearings and by filling the 18-member panel with only law enforcement officials.

The group said the commission was developed “to support President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s unfounded claims that there is lack of respect for law enforcement across the United States due to recent efforts to reform the criminal justice system.” 

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of NAACP LDF, told The Hill in a statement that the report is “utterly discredited” and the commission’s creation, process, recommendations and release “have all been tainted by the federal district court’s finding of illegality.”

“A balanced and fair Commission would never have supported the conclusions of this report, so Attorney General Barr convened a rigged Commission, in violation of federal law, to generate a report that would serve political, rather than valid public safety ends,” Ifill said.

“The cynical deployment of this illegal commission is particularly egregious at a time when, across the country, Americans are demanding accountability for police violence against unarmed African Americans and confronting the reality of police violence against peaceful protesters,” she added.

Reuters previously received drafts of the report through public records requests. Those drafts indicated the report calls for more police surveillance powers and due process protections for officers, without discussing systemic racism in law enforcement. 

The commission was created a few months before protests over police brutality and racial injustice shook the country after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

— Updated on Nov. 3 at 8:45 a.m.

Tags Department of Justice DOJ Donald Trump federal court federal judge Law enforcement NAACP Legal Defense Fund Police William Barr

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