After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into the city’s police department to determine whether it “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.”
While the investigation might seem to be a noble effort to some, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund says—and I’m paraphrasing here—“Nah bro, that ain’t enough.” Basically, the LDF wants Garland and the Justice Department to take things a step further and suspend police grants to the department until the investigation is concluded and the people are satisfied.
According to NPR, which obtained a letter sent to the Justice Department from LDF President Sherrilyn Ifill, the organization wants Garland to employ Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and apply it to police funding.
“The innovation of it was really designed to address recalcitrant Southern jurisdictions that refused to comply with Brown v. Board of Education,” Ifill wrote in the letter. “But it doesn’t apply just to education. It essentially says that federal funds cannot be used to support local programs that engage in discrimination.”
The new letter to the Justice Department points out that police have killed at least 17 Black people since Garland was confirmed as Attorney General this year and that several of the deadly incidents occurred while the trial in Minneapolis was under way. Years of Justice Department investigations and independent research have uncovered racial discrimination in patterns of traffic stops, arrests and even deaths from law enforcement agencies across the country.
“Every new shooting, every video brings with it an urgency to address discriminatory police conduct nationwide,” said Puneet Cheema, who manages the Justice and Public Safety Project at the LDF. “And now it’s not an individual officer, it’s not an individual department. It’s a national problem, and it needs a national solution.”
Right now is a good time to remind people that all of the months of protesting in Minnesota and across the country wasn’t enough to stop a police officer from fatally shooting Daunte Wright in the midst of a national spotlight on Chauvin’s trial. So maybe it is time to drop the hammer on Minneapolis police and cops all over the nation—and maybe a withholding of police grants needs to be part of that hammer.
According to NPR, the LDF’s letter pointed out that DOJ regulations state that federal money “may not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, utilize criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin.”
I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that systemic racism in policing can be applied here. So far, Garland hasn’t indicated whether he has responded to the letter or if he plans to consider the LDF’s call to action.