State Watch

18 state attorneys general request authority to investigate local police

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Eighteen Democratic state attorneys general are asking Congress to grant them the “explicit authority” to investigate patterns of misconduct in local police departments. 

“Urgent action is necessary at all levels of government to remedy the injustice of police misconduct,” the attorneys general wrote in a letter dated Thursday and obtained by Politico.

The directive they ask for in the letter, addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would allow them to obtain data about excessive uses of force by law enforcement officers and bring charges to federal court “to ensure constitutional policing in our states, particularly when the federal government is unwilling or unable to act.”

Their call comes after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week while in Minneapolis police custody. Demonstrations protesting Floyd’s death have also led to investigations after police officers have used force toward peaceful protesters.

Though the Justice Department (DOJ) has launched an investigation into whether the police officer accused of killing Floyd violated federal civil rights laws, some lawmakers have been disappointed Attorney General William Barr has not launched a probe into the police department.

Floyd died after an officer, who has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd told him he could not breathe.

The states listed the investigations they have already launched into police practices but noted they are limited in scope.

“However, much more could be done if Congress formally recognized and empowered all State Attorneys General to conduct federal ‘pattern-or-practice’ investigations, in addition to authority they may already have under state statutes,” the AGs wrote. “One thing is certain: if US DOJ continues to abdicate its responsibility to pursue police reform, someone has to take action. We stand ready to do so.” 

Tags demonstrations George Floyd protests Minneapolis Minnesota Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi police brutality William Barr
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