Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report from the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, despite the U.S. District Court’s decision that the Commission had violated the law. In response, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Open Society Policy Center, and the Center for Policing Equity issued the following joint statement:
“The report released today is illegitimate and has already been completely discredited. Accordingly, the entirety of its contents, including all recommendations, should be discarded. The report was generated by a sham Commission composed entirely of law enforcement officials to serve political, rather than valid public safety ends. A federal court has already ruled the Commission is illegal, having violated federal law by refusing to provide required transparency and public accountability.
“The court thus ordered the Commission to include a disclaimer at the beginning of its report making clear that it broke the law and did not comply with the balanced membership or public notice requirements. The Commission’s membership excluded important viewpoints in assessing issues of policing in this country – including those of the civil rights community. In addition, two members of the Commission resigned because they felt the process was not sufficiently transparent and that any recommendations put forth were preconceived.
“We urge the incoming Biden Administration to disavow and rescind the Commission and its report, which completely failed to consider the rights of the communities that law enforcement officers and agencies serve. Any law enforcement agency that attempts to rely on information in the report, which was developed through illegitimate means, risks further damage to its own legitimacy and credibility.
“The issues plaguing policing in America are no secret. They have been studied extensively and do not require additional commissions. It is time for the nation to pivot to implementing comprehensive policies that will hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct, create new public safety systems that reduce the footprint of law enforcement officers in Black and Brown communities and increase investments in other services and programs that will keep all communities safe.
“These wide-ranging policies include, but are not limited to: ending qualified immunity, a defense that shields police from being sued for misconduct; reducing the budgets of law enforcement agencies and redirecting funds to agency services and community-based programs that can best respond to behavioral health crises and people experiencing homelessness; eliminating federal funds for police in schools and redirecting the resources to school staff and programs that promote positive school climates; implementing a national standard that restricts the use of force, and particularly deadly force, to instances of last resort; and ending federal programs that provide military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
“Attorney General Barr’s parting shot as he departs is consistent with his shameful tenure leading the Department of Justice. We will work to repair the damage his leadership has inflicted on the work of those determined to chart a new course for public safety in our country, guided by the protections of our Constitution.”
On April 30, 2020, LDF filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Barr, the DOJ, the Commission, and the chair and vice-chair of this Commission. The suit challenged the creation of the Commission – an initiative that was first announced in October 2019 through a presidential executive order and implemented in January 2020 by Attorney General Barr. LDF’s complaint demonstrated that the Commission failed to comply with nearly any requirement of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), a law that helps ensure that federal advisory committees are publicly accountable and produce recommendations that are the result of balanced viewpoints and not the undue influence of special interests.
On October 1, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Commission as constituted was illegal in that it violated multiple requirements of the FACA. In November, the court ordered the Commission to reestablish itself in compliance with FACA or release the report with a disclaimer that it was created in violation of federal law.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.