The signatures on this petition have been assembled to express the need for a federal law enforcement agency that specializes in investigating the ethical conduct of all law enforcement agencies in the United States of America.
Response to Petition
Thank you for your participation in this petition that expresses a desire for a federal law enforcement agency specializing in investigating "the ethical conduct of all law enforcement agencies."
The President has been clear that "the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally." As we continue to grieve from the recent tragic events, however, he has also been clear that in too many parts of our country, there is continued distrust between communities of color and the law enforcement officers who serve them. As the President said after meeting with law enforcement and community leaders in July:
"We're not at a point yet where communities of color feel confident that their police departments are serving them with dignity and respect and equality. And we're not at the point yet where police departments feel adequately supported at all levels."
The President has repeatedly emphasized that we can and must do both: We must come together to find solutions that both support law enforcement officers and give them the tools they need to keep themselves safe, and also confront the disparities that persist in our criminal justice system.
To further this commitment, in 2014, the President launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policy, which was designed to identify best practices and develop meaningful solutions to help law enforcement agencies and communities across the United States strengthen trust and collaboration, while ushering the nation into the next phase of community-focused policing. The Task Force’s report sets out a series of concrete recommendations geared toward state legislatures, local governments, and other key stakeholders to enhance accountability and ensure external and independent investigations in appropriate circumstances.
Given that policing in the United States is predominantly the province of state and local governments, who are most familiar with their communities and priorities, and that there are 18,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country, fostering best practices at the state and local level will remain critical to ensuring trust and accountability. We have seen law enforcement agencies across the country formally reviewing the report, identifying areas of improvement and implementing the recommended actions in areas such as implicit bias, de-escalation and crisis intervention training and officer safety and wellness.
As part of the Administration’s effort to advance the Task Force’s proposals, the White House has hosted a series of briefings with local law enforcement agencies to help these agencies learn how to implement the recommendations in the Task Force’s report. The Administration has also provided officers with information on how to join the President’s Police Data Initiative, a community of practice that enables police departments to collect and publish data on their policing activities in order to foster a more transparent and open dialogue within their communities.
As community members, you can encourage your local police department to attend these convenings, which include presentations from experts and leaders in the field. If your community’s law enforcement agency is interested in attending an upcoming briefing at the White House, you can find more information here.
The federal government, via the Department of Justice (DOJ), also has authority, in certain instances to investigate the actions of individual police officers in local departments or the police departments themselves.This includes the authority to determine whether a police department is engaging in a pattern or practice that violates the Constitution or federal law. If DOJ’s Civil Rights Division identifies a violation, it works with the police department to bring about reform, such as by entering into consent decrees with a particular jurisdiction. These decrees can also serve as blueprints for reforms nationally.
Vanita Gupta, who heads the Civil Rights Division, recently spoke of the "tangible results" and "signs of success" due to these efforts:
In Detroit, after about a decade with the police department under a consent decree, we found improved training and revised use-of-force policies helped lead to a nearly 60 percent decline in the average number of officer-involved shootings per year. In Seattle, a federal monitor examining a three-month period found that officers used force in only 2 percent of roughly 2,500 encounters with individuals in crisis. And in East Haven, Connecticut, where the police department revised nearly 85 policies in a single year, residents continue to report improved relations with police.
This Administration will continue to ensure that our justice system, across the country, is truly just, and we'll continue to work to improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
In the meantime, thank you for speaking out. We appreciate your interest and recommendation on this important issue. We’ll be back in touch soon with updates on this issue and more ways to participate in the conversation.
-- We the People Team