War on (real) cops: AG Garland announces new rules on federal monitoring of local police departments

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WASHINGTON, DC – On September 13th, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice would be establishing some new rules regarding court-appointed monitors who oversee the reforms at police departments that have been sued by the federal government under misconduct allegations.

In AG Garland’s details of the new rollout of practices, he cited the “frustrations” caused by these often lengthy monitoring endeavors, telling police chiefs who attended the virtual conference that the days of seemingly never-ending monitoring will be shuttered.  

Speaking before the International Association of Chiefs of Police, AG Garland described law enforcement officers as “indispensable partners” and that he understands that “the past year and a half” has been an immense strain on police across the country:

“So let me reinforce what I have said in many of my conversations with you and our other law enforcement partners. We want to work with you: to keep our communities safe; to protect the health and wellness of the officers who put their lives on the line; and to promote strong relationships between law enforcement and the public we serve.”

AG Garland addressed many of the issues and causes of concerns regarding some of the practices that have been in play regarding monitoring of police departments by the federal government, following a four-month review of monitoring teams who’ve been tasked to oversee changes at local police departments.

Local taxpayers falling within the areas where these consent decrees are being monitored have generally paid between $1 million and $2 million per year to these monitoring teams, and some monitors have worked on teams in multiple cities at the same time – a practice the Justice Department called in a release “double dipping”.

Another area of concern was that monitors might be incentivized to slow the reform process at these police departments under consent decrees – because the longer the process takes, the more money a monitor banks.

AG Garland told the police chiefs in attendance that he understands their grievances:

“It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community. We hear you, and we take those concerns seriously.”

The Attorney General said that moving forward, “monitors must be incentivized to efficiently bring consent decrees to an end. Change takes time, but a consent decree cannot last forever.”

According to the release from the Justice Department, the new rules going into effect were crafted to ensure that the following “five principles” will be adhered to by court-appointed monitors:

  • Monitorships should be designed to minimize cost to jurisdictions and avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Monitors must be accountable to the court, the parties and the public.
  • Monitors should assess compliance consistently across jurisdictions.
  • Sustained, meaningful engagement with the community is critical to the success of the monitorship.
  • Monitoring must be structured to efficiently move jurisdictions into compliance.

A breakdown of the steps the Justice Department will take to ensure the aforementioned principles are adhered to are as follows:

  • Budget Caps: Future consent decrees will include an annual cap on monitors’ fees to increase transparency and help contain costs.
  • No Double Dipping: To dispel any perception that monitoring is a cottage industry, lead monitors in future consent decrees will no longer be able to serve on more than one monitoring team at a time.
  • Monitors Should Prioritize Stakeholder Input: To ensure that monitors selected are able to understand of a variety of interests and perspectives of the stakeholders in the process, including impacted communities, law enforcement and victims of official misconduct.
  • Term Limits: To ensure that monitors are being held accountable, consent decrees will impose specific terms for monitors that can only be renewed after a process of judicial evaluation and reappointment.
  • Effective Practices Guide, Assessment Tools and Training Materials: To ensure that monitorships are being conducted consistently across jurisdictions, the department will convene a group of stakeholders to create a set of effective practices for monitors, training programs for new monitors and judges overseeing monitorships and assessment tools for monitors to use to evaluate jurisdictions.
  • Termination Hearing After No More than Five Years: To ensure that monitorships are designed to incentivize monitors and jurisdictions to move towards compliance as efficiently as possible, future consent decrees will require a hearing after five years so that jurisdictions can demonstrate the progress it has made, and if possible, to move for termination. To the extent that full compliance has not yet been reached by five years, the hearing will be used to solidify the plan for getting over the finish line in short order.

James Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, expressed an optimistic outlook over these announced changes:

“Pattern or practice investigations are serious business, and if the Justice Department conducts such an investigation and finds areas that require remedy, then it’s critically important that the remedy is effectively administered.”

“Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case over the years, in every instance. These changes go a long way in improving the manner in which public safety is enhanced in cities large and small.”

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, is also among those pleased with the announced changes, noting how his group has spent nearly twenty years trying to accomplish reforms similar to what AG Garland announced:

“This memo addresses many, if not all, of the major concerns we have had. This will help restore credibility into this process.”

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AG Garland: DOJ budget seeks additional $85M for ‘domestic terrorism’ probes

(Originally published May 6th, 2021)

WASHINGTON, DC – According to statements delivered by Attorney General Merrick Garland to members of the House on May 4th, the 2022 budget request for the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice is seeking an additional $85 million in order to investigate domestic terrorism.

When delivering testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, AG Garland stated the following:

“Our budget supports my commitment to protecting our national security, including addressing both international and domestic terrorism while respecting civil liberties.”

“It includes increases of $45 million for the FBI domestic terrorism investigations and $40 million for the U.S. attorneys to manage increasing domestic terrorism caseloads.”

This push to increase the DOJ budget with respect to investigating instances of domestic terrorism conveniently comes at a time when many vocal influential Democrat-affiliated individuals and outlets have likened anyone supportive of the previous president as being tantamount to terrorists.

So it is with little surprise that AG Garland testified, during his confirmation hearing, that one of his initial priorities as attorney general would be to take a deep dive into what transpired on January 6th. It was during AG Garland’s February 22nd confirmation that he specifically referred to rioters present on January 6th as being white supremacists:

“If confirmed, I will supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Moving back to his testimony delivered on May 4th, AG Garland proclaimed that the threat of domestic extremism and terrorism are concerns that keep him “up at night”:

“My oath is to protect the Constitution and Americans from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. And so both forms of terrorism are extraordinary concern to me. We never want to take our eyes off of what happened on 9/11 and that the risks that the country continues to face from foreign terrorist attacks on the homeland.”

“Likewise, we have a growing fear of domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism and both of those keep me up at night…virtually every morning, I get a briefing from the FBI in one of the other or both areas.”

The attorney general’s testimony with respect to the DOJ budget request saw many asks regarding funding increases, such as additional funding for the DOJ’s civil rights division, community relations service, funds to support the Office of Violence Against Women and many other programs and efforts.

Perhaps one of those beneficial requests amid the DOJ budget for 2022 was a requested 21% budget increase for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Said budgetary increase would see the onboarding of 100 new immigration judges, technological improvements, and other various means to efficiently address the enormous case backlog facing the immigration court system.

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