National Security

Budget tasks DOJ with turnaround of policing, voting rights, hate crimes

getty: Judge Merrick Garland is sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be US Attorney General on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 22, 2021.

President Biden’s first budget includes significant investments in policing reforms and civil rights, calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to spearhead efforts to address systemic racism along with a rise in hate crimes.

A White House budget summary argues funding is needed to address “a national reckoning on racial inequity centuries in the making.”

The budget gives a $33 million boost — a nearly 20 percent increase — to efforts across the department for police reform, enforcement of voting rights and the prosecution of hate crimes.

The funds should be targeted “in communities uniquely impacted by bias, xenophobia, and hate driven by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, such as Asian America[n] communities.”

The focus on hate crimes comes shortly after Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a 30-day review of the department’s hate crime efforts.

“The recent rise in hate crime and hate incidents, particularly the disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community since the start of the pandemic, requires renewed energy,” Garland wrote in a March memo. 

The extra funding for the civil rights division also specifically called out the work of DOJ’s voting rights section, as state legislatures are increasingly garnering attention for passing bills that place new restrictions on voting.

A Georgia bill passed last month includes provisions that block people from handing out food and water to those waiting in line to vote. Biden has said the Justice Department is weighing how to respond.

The section has sought to hire additional lawyers in recent weeks, part of an effort to make good on Biden’s campaign promise to combat what he claims are discriminatory voting laws.

A separate pot of more than $300 million is geared toward community policing and helping diversify police forces to mirror the communities they serve. That includes funding for racial sensitivity and implicit bias training and training on hate crimes, which are often underreported by police.

“Bold action is required to reform the federal criminal justice system so that it serves and protects all Americans,” the White House said in the summary.

The budget also calls for further implementing the First Step Act, which was passed by Congress during the Trump administration by investing in programs designed to offer alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders along with reentry programs that aim to reduce recidivism by assisting those leaving prison.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect American communities, the need for smart solutions to reduce prison populations has become even more pressing,” the summary states.

The DOJ budget also includes funding to help deliver on Biden’s promise to reduce gun violence, adding another $232 million “to address the gun violence public health crisis plaguing communities across the Nation.”

Biden on Thursday announced six executive actions geared toward preventing all forms of gun violence, including mass shootings, community violence, domestic violence and suicide.

Tags Asian American discrimination Discrimination Hate crimes Joe Biden Merrick Garland police reform voting rights
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