Monday, November 23, 2020

Prosecutor asks to be removed from DOJ report on policing reform

A second local prosecutor asked the U.S. Justice Department to have his name removed from a controversial report on policing reforms, saying he feared it would fail to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system, reported Reuters.

Mark Dupree, the district attorney in Wyandotte County, Kansas, told U.S. Attorney General William Barr in a letter seen by Reuters he felt the work of the department’s special law enforcement commission had been “smothered by a pernicious political agenda.”

The commission started working before the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

Dupree, an African American, is the second person who worked on the commission to resign.

He is also at least the third person involved with the commission known to voice concerns the Justice Department was not adequately considering feedback from all interested parties on improving policing practices in America.

“We have received Mr. Dupree’s letter and we respect his request,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement.

“He was a valuable member of the working group on Reentry Programs and Initiatives and made important contributions to the Commission’s work.”

In October, a federal judge temporarily stopped the Justice Department from publishing the commission’s report, saying it had violated federal open meetings laws.

The ruling came after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF) sued the panel, alleging it lacked diverse membership, allowed police interest groups to have undue influence on the commission’s work, and failed to give ample access to open meetings.

The commission had planned to deliver a slate of proposals recommending sweeping new powers for police shortly before the November presidential election.

Attorney General William Barr in January said the commission would recommend best practices at a time when “criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers.”

In draft chapters of the report seen by Reuters, it calls for bolstering due-process protections for officers accused of wrongdoing and expanding police surveillance powers. But it does not address any concerns about systemic racism in policing.

Earlier this month, the judge told the Justice Department it could only release the final report with a disclaimer saying it was written in violation of federal open meeting laws.

A court filing this week indicated the Justice Department may release the report in the coming weeks, though the NAACP LDF is still fighting for all drafts and internal communications to be made public.

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