US judge halts work of Trump administration’s policing panel

USA & World

US judge halts work of Trump administration’s policing panel

A federal judge in the United States has halted the work of a policing panel created by President Donald Trump’s administration that aimed to deliver a slate of “law and order” reform proposals before November’s presidential election.

In a ruling on Thursday, US District Court Judge John Bates barred the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice from releasing its final report later this month, saying the panel must first meet some legal requirements and rectify its errors.

Bates said the government had not satisfied “the obligations in forming and conducting a commission in 2020 to examine the sensitive and important issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they serve”.

The panel was convened by the US Justice Department to deliver on a promise Trump made last year to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Its 18 commissioners include federal, state and local law enforcement representatives – but no civil rights advocates, defence attorneys or big-city police officials.

“No commissioner has a criminal defense, civil rights, or community organisation background and commission proceedings have been far from transparent,” Bates said in the 45-page court ruling.

The commission’s membership and secretive proceedings had led the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund to sue to stop its work.

Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of prosecutors working for criminal justice reform, welcomed the court’s decision on Thursday.

“Today’s decisive summary judgement ruling is a victory for all those who are working towards building a more fair and just criminal legal system – one grounded in racial equity and that promotes community safety and well-being,” Krinsky said in a statement.

‘Never be political’

The panel also had been warned about shutting out public input by several of its own participants, according to internal records seen by the Reuters news agency.

According to draft proposals reviewed by Reuters, the commission was urged to bolster due-process protections for officers accused of wrongdoing.

Among the participants who warned the panel about its closed process was Fayetteville, North Carolina Police Chief Gina Hawkins, a commission member.

In a May 11 email, she told commission chairman Phil Keith drafting recommendations without hearing from all sides created the appearance of a pre-determined conclusion.

Then, on August 13, she complained the draft contained too many quotes from Trump and Attorney General William Barr, rather than experts who provided input to the commission, saying the work “should never be political”.

Trump signed an executive order in October last year, directing Barr to establish the commission to study a broad range of issues regarding law enforcement and the criminal justice system.