While policing is largely a state and local function, the federal government has the power and obligation to impose this nationwide solution. Annually, it confers at least $2 billion in federal grants to police departments around the country. Tulsa has received $14 million since 2010; Charlotte has gotten $4 million. Larger jurisdictions receive considerably greater amounts. The Chicago Police Department has received $40 million since 2010.
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government has an obligation to ensure that federal funds are not conferred on programs that engage in discrimination. Title VI of the act was instrumental in compelling school districts to begin desegregation, especially in the North, where desegregation was largely driven by the fear that districts would become ineligible for critical government funds. Unfortunately, federal legislation creating police grant programs includes language purporting to exempt them from obligations that might threaten funding. This loophole should be closed immediately. No state or local agency should be allowed to make an end run around the obligations against racial inequality in our hard-won federal civil rights laws.