May 29, 2020

Congressman Neguse, House Judiciary Committee Democrats Demand DOJ Open Investigations in Response to Recent Murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, & George Floyd; Pledge Additional Oversight and Legislation

Washington D.C.—In response to the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Congressman Joe Neguse joined House Judiciary Committee Democrats in a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) demanding prompt action, including the opening of pattern and practice investigations of police misconduct. The letter calls for the DOJ to investigate the prosecutors involved in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed African American man who was shot in cold blood while running in his neighborhood. The letter also calls for DOJ to open pattern and practice investigations into the police departments in Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her own home by police, and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed after a police officer kneeled on his neck and body.  The House Judiciary Committee will also be pursuing additional oversight and legislative action in June to address the series of racially motivated violence and unjust policing practices that have resulted in the deaths of African Americans across the country.

 

“There simply is no excuse for any law enforcement officer to treat any human being in the brutally callous way the Minneapolis Police Department treated Mr. Floyd, apparently causing his death,” reads the letter from House Judiciary Members. “We applaud MPD’s decision to fire four of the officers involved but call for an investigation into the full extent to which all persons involved may be civilly or criminally liable for Mr. Floyd’s death, including whether it was part of a pattern of civil rights violations by the MPD.”

“The fair, transparent, and equal administration of justice is a bedrock principle for citizens to maintain the trust required to govern themselves in an ordered society,” continues the letter. 

Federal law prohibits any governmental authority from engaging in a “pattern or practice” of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives persons of their constitutional rights. This federal statute also authorizes the Attorney General to initiate a civil action to obtain appropriate equitable or declaratory relief to eliminate such a pattern or practice.

In the wake of high-profile applications of fatal force by police against unarmed African American men in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago, the Justice Department investigated policing practices in those cities and uncovered rampant abuses of constitutional rights and civil liberties. During the Obama Administration, the Justice Department negotiated consent decree agreements with the police departments in all four cities.

Following President Trump’s election and his appointment of Jefferson B. Sessions as Attorney General, the Justice Department abruptly changed its interpretation of its statutory role to eliminate patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct in local police departments.

Full text of the letter is available here