Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Demand Justice Reforms in Wake of Brutal Police Killings Across the Country | Congressman Tim Ryan
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Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) Demand Justice Reforms in Wake of Brutal Police Killings Across the Country

June 23, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Reps. Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) today pressed Attorney General William Barr to improve justice reforms in the wake of brutal police killings across the country. In a letter to the Attorney General, the lawmakers shed light on numerous measures that have been rolled back under the Trump Administration, and made demands for immediate steps the Justice Department should take to protect Americans from police brutality.

“No American should be made to feel unsafe by those who are appointed to protect and serve our communities. Recent brutal police killings – including those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – have been a painful national reminder that the systemic racism that has plagued our country since its founding is very much alive and well today,” said Congressman Ryan. “In the face of over-militarized and too often unaccountable law enforcement in this country, now is not a time to be rolling back protections for Americans; now is the time to strengthen them.”

"There are good men and women in police departments across the nation, and there are brutal ones. Instances of police violence have undermined the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color throughout America. Unless police are held accountable for their actions, brutality will continue. It is far past time for DOJ to stop rolling back accountability measures and work to protect the American people," said Congressman Jeffries.

“It is time for our nation to take bold action and condemn police brutality. Police brutality and the use of excessive and militarized force are among the most serious ongoing human rights and civil liberties violations in the United States and have led to community destabilization, a decrease in public safety, and the exacerbation of structural inequities. We urge you to take immediate steps to rectify these problems within the DOJ as well as provide a written response on how the DOJ will proceed forward with addressing police brutality,” wrote the lawmakers.

The lawmakers are calling for:

  • Support of efforts to eliminate the use of force, conduct stringent oversight and investigations and hold individual law enforcement officers and police departments accountable for police brutality, racial profiling and violence
  • The Department of Justice to reinstitute its authority to investigate individual instances of police brutality, racial profiling as well as police departments that repeatedly violate civil rights
  • Development of an immersive, real-life, scenario-based training curriculum that reflects and prepares officers for unique challenges and prioritizes improving community-police relations, de-escalation and crisis intervention and alternatives to use of deadly force

The lawmakers were joined by 16 additional cosponsors including Reps. Peter Welch (VT), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Darren Soto (FL-09), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03),

See the full text of the letter here and below.

William Barr
Attorney General 
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530

Attorney General Barr,

During a time when protests are erupting throughout the nation and around the world from people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds our attention is being called to the suffering of black and brown people here in the United States. We are forced to acknowledge the reality that racism plagues our systems and makes it more difficult for black people and other people of color to access resources and opportunities. 

George Floyd was murdered by four police officers because of the color of his skin. As he begged for his life, his final words, “I can’t breathe” of Mr. Floyd echo those of Eric Garner and countless African Americans who have had their lives cut short or forever altered by the very people sworn to protect them. This tragedy is not a one-off incident. We have seen time and time again the institutional bias within our criminal justice system and the continuous increase of deaths by police.

Police brutality and violence is now a leading cause of death among young men, particularly Black men who are nearly three times more likely to be killed by police than their white peers. Latino men are almost twice as likely to be killed by police use of force and Black and Latino women and girls and Native Americans are also killed by police at disproportionately higher rates. LGBTQ+ individuals and those experiencing homelessness are also significantly more likely to be criminalized and the target of police violence.

In the past 3½ years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has rolled back critical policies which held abusive police departments accountable. Ending the practice of placing police departments that violate constitutional rights under court-supervised consent decrees, ending the voluntary federal-state collaborative reform program and reversing limits on a program that has provided billions of dollars of military-grade vehicles and weapons—such as grenade launchers and bayonets—to local police departments has escalated police violence in this nation. The DOJ has significantly failed on maintaining its obligations to the American people. 

Given the issues at stake, we immediately call for:

  • Support of efforts to eliminate the use of force, conduct stringent oversight and investigations and hold individual law enforcement officers and police departments accountable for police brutality, racial profiling and violence
  • The Department of Justice to reinstitute its authority to investigate individual instances of police brutality, racial profiling as well as police departments that repeatedly violate civil rights
  • Development of an immersive, real-life, scenario-based training curriculum that reflects and prepares officers for unique challenges and prioritizes improving community-police relations, de-escalation and crisis intervention and alternatives to use of deadly force

It is time for our nation to take bold action and condemn police brutality. Police brutality and the use of excessive and militarized force are among the most serious ongoing human rights and civil liberties violations in the United States and have led to community destabilization, a decrease in public safety, and the exacerbation of structural inequities. We urge you to take immediate steps to rectify these problems within the DOJ as well as provide a written response on how the DOJ will proceed forward with addressing police brutality. 

Sincerely,

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