Only the president and America’s most crooked top cop could’ve thought that it was legal to launch a law enforcement commission that only included police and wasn’t open to the public.
Well, all that’s going to have to change as Senior U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates in Washington, D.C., found that President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr “violated federal law by failing to have a diverse membership and failing to provide public access to its meetings,” the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, the judge ordered the commission to stop work, Thursday, although the commission had already sent a draft of the report and recommendations on improving American policing to Barr for release next month. Apparently, Trump and Evil Fred Flintstone believe that the police are the only ones who can help fix the police.
The stop work order was a response to a lawsuit from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), “which sought an injunction against the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice for violating laws on how federal advisory committees must work,” the Post reports.
“Especially in 2020,” Bates wrote, “when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” the Post reports.
From the Post:
The 18-member commission was composed entirely of state and federal law enforcement officials, with no one from the civil rights, criminal defense, social work, religious or academic fields. Members were sworn in on Jan. 22, and then heard months of testimony by teleconference from experts in a variety of police, prosecutorial and social fields. The commission also formed 15 working groups, with more than 100 members, to draft sections of the report focusing on topics such as “Reduction of Crime,” “Respect for Law Enforcement,” “Data and Reporting” and “Homeland Security.”
The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that a committee’s membership be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed,” so that its recommendations “will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority.” The working groups were also largely tied to policing, with only five of the 112 members not from law enforcement. After the suit was filed, the speakers who testified before the commission were more diverse in professional backgrounds.
Police groups lobbied Congress for years to form a commission that would take a comprehensive look at improving American policing, as a similar panel did in the 1960s, to devise new ways to fight crime and use technology to improve policing. When various bills stalled in Congress, Trump signed an executive order last October creating the group, with the president acknowledging the assistance of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police in launching the project.
The law also requires that advisory committee meetings be open to the public, with notice posted in the Federal Register, along with a charter for the committee. The commission did not post a charter or meeting notices in the register, but did send out news releases announcing the virtual meetings as well as posting transcripts and recordings of the meetings. Reporters and others could dial in and listen to the teleconferences. A meeting which Barr held in June with the commission, on the same day Trump signed an executive order on police reform, was not announced and the Justice Department declined to release a transcript or recording.
Trump’s order called for the commission to submit its report and recommendations to the attorney general, who was then required to send his final report to the president by Oct. 28. The Justice Department planned to release it at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in late October, according to an email in the court file. Now, the report and the commission’s months of work are in limbo.
And it should be, but Natasha Merle, one of the LDF lawyers who argued the case, told the Post that she doesn’t think it is too late to have opposing viewpoints added to the report.
“We would say a seat at the table is allowing substantive comments, hearings and a new report, Merle said. “For there to be any real relief, to really get at the crux of the issue, you would have to incorporate these members’ viewpoints and put them into the report.”
The Post notes that the LDF sued Barr and the commission in April to stop them from compiling or submitting their report. The LDF argued in itsr lawsuit that the commission’s “recommendations will give more power and protection to law enforcement, reinvigorate tough-on-crime measures, and cut down on the rights of citizens.”
And what would give Merle that impression? Was it because the Justice Department had already sent out a detailed outline, before the lawsuit was filed to all of its members titled: “Respect for Law Enforcement and the Rule of Law”?
The outline recommends that the Justice Department “should work to correct the myth of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers” and “should play a leading role in correcting the narrative regarding the number of individuals incarcerated in the United States,” the Post reports.
The commission “had no intention of engaging in a thoughtful and open analysis” of the American justice system, “but was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past,” John J. Choi, the Ramsey County, Minn., prosecutor where St. Paul is located, said after resigning from the commission last month.