The call to federalize law enforcement departments and offices around the country was made more than once after Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
Following that incident, President Obama asked a group of individuals to prepare a study on 21st Century Policing that includes measures by which law enforcement could be federalized.
Not surprisingly, many of the study’s findings and suggestions have nothing to do with the details or evidence surrounding Officer Wilson and Michael Brown but read like a social justice wish list for minorities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and protesters who riot in response to half-truths propagated by race-hucksters stirring the pot in Ferguson, New York City, and Baltimore.
It must be noted that one stark result of such federalization would be the successful and quiet removal of opposition to gun control via new constraints on sheriffs around the country who currently enjoy relative freedom from extensive federal input and oversight. As we have seen from the Sandy Hook Elementary attack until now, the strongest voices against federal gun control have often been sheriffs in states where gun rights reign supreme. These same sheriffs have also pushed back against anti-Second Amendment legislators in their own states by pledging their refusal to enforce new gun laws, should such laws be enacted.
Federalizing sheriffs would effectively moot this opposition.
The Interim Report of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was released in March 2015. It is approximately 109 pages long–including appendices and notes–and outlines ways in which law enforcement can be federalized and ways in which law enforcement can work harder to win the favor of minorities and others.
Here are some of the suggestions put forth in the study:
1.2.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should develop and disseminate case studies that provide examples where past injustices were publicly acknowledged by law enforcement agencies in a manner to help build community trust.
1.8.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a Law Enforcement Diversity Initiative designed to help communities diversify law enforcement departments to reflect the demographics of the community
1.8.4 ACTION ITEM: Discretionary federal funding for law enforcement programs could be influenced by that department’s efforts to improve their diversity and cultural and linguistic responsiveness.
2.2.4 ACTION ITEM: Policies on use of force should also require agencies to collect, maintain, and report data to the Federal Government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death.
2.7.2 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a mechanism for investigating complaints and issuing sanctions regarding the inappropriate use of equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations
2.8 RECOMMENDATION: Some form of civilian oversight of law enforcement is important in order to strengthen trust with the community. Every community should define the appropriate form and structure of civilian oversight to meet the needs of that community.
2.8.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice, through its research arm, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), should expand its research agenda to include civilian oversight.
3.1.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should support the development and delivery of training to help law enforcement agencies learn, acquire, and implement technology tools and tactics that are consistent with the best practices of 21st century policing.
3.3.1 ACTION ITEM: As part of the process for developing best practices, the U.S. Department of Justice should consult with civil rights and civil liberties organizations, as well as law enforcement research groups and other experts, concerning the constitutional issues that can arise as a result of the use of new technologies.
3.6 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should support the development of new “less than lethal” technology to help control combative suspects.
5.1 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should support the development of partnerships with training facilities across the country to promote consistent standards for high quality training and establish training innovation hubs.
5.3.1 ACTION ITEM: Recognizing that strong, capable leadership is required to create cultural transformation, the U.S. Department of Justice should invest in developing learning goals and model curricula/training for each level of leadership
5.13 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should support the development and implementation of improved Field Training Officer programs.
These are just a few of the many suggestions, but they provide insight into how federalization would look.
For instance, note ACTION ITEM 1.8.4, which makes clear that the flow of federal funding to departments and offices would be tied to whether said departments and agencies comported with federal requirements on certain matters. Where, in such requirements, would wiggle room remain for sheriffs or small police departments to continue to live and work in ways reflective of the small communities in they live?
Would Oregon Sheriffs like Glenn Palmer (Grant County) or David Daniel (Josephine County) still get federal funding if they refused to enforce gun control, as they are currently refusing to enforce the new controls contained Senate Bill 941? Would then-Weld County, Colorado Sheriff John Cooke have received funding after he came out against the Democrat push for gun control in his state in 2013? How about Jackson County, Kentucky, Sheriff Denny Peyman, who stood less than a month after Sandy Hook to say his county would not recognize any new gun controls handed down by the feds?
Peyman said: “My office will not comply with any federal action which violates the United States Constitution or the Kentucky Constitution which I swore uphold.” Do you think Peyman’s office would get federal funding and equipment, or would the office not quietly dry up and fade away?
These are questions that must be asked, especially in light of the fact that the study on 21st Century Policing is introduced by claiming the National Sheriffs Association supported Senator Jim Webb’s (D-VA) push to create a National Criminal Justice Commission in 2009. That commission would have existed to take a “continuous look at criminal justice reform in the context of broad societal issues… [that have] never faded from public consciousness.”
Part of that “continuous look” would have been to watch and see how well law enforcement departments and offices were comporting with federal directives and offer “evidence-based recommendations for reform” to bring everyone in line.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.