- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Statement on U.S House Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for its passage of police reform legislation, which gives state attorneys general the authority to investigate unconstitutional policing. She is joining a coalition of national attorneys general now calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the legislation.
Among the provisions of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, state attorneys general would have the authority to conduct pattern-or-practice investigations into the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers. AG Healey sent a letter to Congressional leadership earlier this month arguing that state attorneys general should have the authority to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, particularly because the U.S. Department of Justice has failed to use its authority to act.
“If the Department of Justice isn’t going to do its job, then states need to have the power to investigate and take action,” AG Healey said. “This is about more than individual incidents and officers; we need to take a broader look at the systemic problems that lead to unconstitutional policing. I urge the Senate to pass this critical legislation. So much is at stake.”
Joining AG Healey in calling on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 are the attorneys general of Illinois, New York, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia
The legislation gives state attorneys general the authority to conduct patterns-or-practice investigations, issue subpoenas as part of the investigations, and, when necessary take action in federal district court.
In their June 4 letter to Congressional leaders, the attorneys general highlighted the dramatic decrease in pattern or practice investigations initiated by the DOJ since 2017. According to the letter, the DOJ initiated 69 pattern-or-practice investigations between 1994 and 2017, which resulted in 40 court-enforceable consent decrees. However, since 2017, the DOJ has largely curtailed the ability of federal law enforcement to use court-enforced agreements to reform local police departments accused of abuses. Pattern or practice investigations by DOJ have, as a result, been nearly eliminated. The attorneys general argue that the DOJ’s refusal to address the pervasive problem of police misconduct has left communities without critical civil rights protections.
The legislation would also enable state attorneys general to acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers. This would help states identify and remedy problematic and unlawful practices before a devastating incident occurs. For example, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25 had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs. According to a 2018 report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, law enforcement uses excessive force disproportionately on people of color, which too often leads to preventable injury and death. In fact, people of color comprise less than 38 percent of the nation’s population, yet they make up almost 63 percent of unarmed people killed by police.