RELEASE: The Trump Administration’s Irresponsible Approach to Law Enforcement Underscores States’ Responsibility to Address Discriminatory and Unconstitutional Policing

Washington, D.C. — In a departure from decades of precedence, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Donald Trump has abandoned efforts to address systemic police misconduct. Since 1994, the DOJ has investigated misconduct by law enforcement and led reform efforts in dozens of communities, which were found to be plagued by a so-called pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.

A new Center for American Progress analysis exposes the Trump administration’s campaign to strip resources, oversight, and accountability from local law enforcement agencies across the United States. The brief recommends that state attorneys general play a significant role in protecting civil rights and rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“By failing to address systemic unconstitutional policing, the Justice Department is making the country less safe, especially for people of color who are more likely to be victims of police violence,” said Connor Maxwell, research associate for Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress and one of the piece’s authors. “However, state attorneys general have the resources, relationships, and expertise necessary to lead reform efforts around the country. In the wake of this unprecedented failure of federal leadership, it is now incumbent on states to empower their attorneys general to hold law enforcement accountable and begin the hard work of rebuilding trust.”

Some states, such as California, have already given their attorneys general the authority to combat police misconduct and have succeeded in reforming troubled law enforcement agencies. For example, complaints against the Riverside Police Department plummeted by almost 80 percent—from 185 in 2002 to just 38 in 2015—after the state intervened to address systemic violations of residents’ civil rights. The time is now for states to usher in a new era of policing. They should empower state attorneys general to investigate, litigate, and resolve the pattern or practice of discriminatory and unconstitutional policing.

Click here to read the issue brief: “Expanding the Authority of State Attorneys General to Combat Police Misconduct” by Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick jcusick@americanprogress.org or 202-495-3682.