CBC members push police czar idea
By: Lucy McCalmont
August 25, 2014 04:52 PM EDT
Rep. Elijah Cummings, along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, sent a letter Monday to President Barack Obama, urging the administration to pursue changes to local law enforcement structure to “prevent more Fergusons,” including a federal czar to oversee local law enforcement.
“The administration must quickly establish a national commission to review existing police policies and practices,” the letter read. “And identify the best policies and practices that can prevent more Fergusons and vastly improve policing in communities across the nation.”
In addition to the commission, the letter also calls for the appointment of a federal czar within the Justice Department to monitor and oversee local police departments that receive federal funding.
Besides Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, Democratic Reps. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Steven Horsford of Nevada, John Lewis of Georgia, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Barbara Lee of Texas signed the letter, as well as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and actress Cynthia Nixon.
The letter comes the same day as the funeral for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed Aug. 9 by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. The letter says Brown “is only the latest in a long list of black men and boys who have died under eerily similar circumstances.”
“The pattern is too obvious to be a coincidence and too frequent to be a mistake,” the letter reads, while acknowledging that many facts regarding Brown’s death are still unclear.
The letter notes both “systemic racial bias” and the militarization of police departments as “dangerous trends,” and outlines a number of actions for the administration to address, including racial bias training for every local police department under guidelines set by the Justice Department. It also calls upon the Justice Department to set and implement national standards for investigations when police shoot unarmed victims as well as to set, implement and monitor diversity hiring and retention. The letter urges the administration to also suspend programs that provide local police with military equipment, while authorizing support under existing grants to foster more engagement between local law enforcement and the communities they serve.