ACLU Applauds New Police Accountability Measure

March 15, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON–The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the introduction of a bill designed to curb outrages like Los Angeles Police Department’s “Ramparts” scandal and the Amadou Diallo shooting in New York.

“The growing gulf between police departments and the communities they serve poses a danger to all of us,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “The cost of the divide is high — innocent people have paid with their lives, while survivors in their communities are left ever more unsafe and fearful of the men and women sworn to protect them.”

The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2000, which was introduced today by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), is a comprehensive approach toward creating police accountability and building trust between police departments and their communities. The bill was lauded at a Capitol Hill news conference by representatives of the ACLU, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and the Urban League.

The bill would for the first time bring together community groups, police departments and the Department of Justice to establish national standards for police use of force. The resulting standards would set up the first accreditation system that is not run by law enforcement groups.

“We do not depend on stockbrokers to investigate insider trading, so why do we rely on the police to police themselves?” Murphy asked. “No institution should be expected to fully police itself – even the police.”

Recognizing that concerns about civil rights violations are not limited to local police departments, the bill would also establish oversight commissions for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs. The commission would function similarly to civilian review boards. Federal law enforcement agencies would be required to collect data on the personal characteristics of people they target for investigation.

The bill would also beef up enforcement of existing civil rights laws, in part by providing increased funding to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Additionally it would allow individuals to bring certain types of civil rights suits against law enforcement agencies, a power that is currently reserved for the Department of Justice.

Finally, Murphy said, the legislation would also protect police from retaliation if they come forward to report abuse or bad conduct. The bill establishes civil and criminal penalties for retaliation against “whistleblower” officers who report police misconduct.

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