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House hearings’ second witness, fmr Obama head, blames Trump administration for police injustices

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A former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama administration blasted President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr during testimony before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reforms Wednesday.

In addition, Vanita Gupta, now president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, claimed that the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was not an isolated incident.

While Floyd’s “murder…put the issue of police brutality in the national spotlight, the outpouring of pain and anger is anything but a reaction to one isolated incident or the misconduct of a few bad apples,” Gupta said. “Instead, the outcry is a response to the long cycle of stolen lives and violence with impunity toward black people in our nation.”

Claiming that the country “is now at a turning point,” Gupta intoned: “There is no returning to normal.”

After calling for “transformative” changes and “more police accountability,” Gupta noted that she began her tenure as head of the civil rights division at DoJ two months after Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown was killed by a police officer, Darren Wilson. The incident spawned the phony ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ narrative and the Black Lives Matter movement.

She said during the Obama years, the Justice Department opened more than two dozen investigations into local police departments, “often at the request of police chiefs and mayors who needed federal leadership.”

“After making findings, we negotiated consent decrees with extensive engagement and input from community advocates,” she continued — decrees that were criticized by Republicans as federal intrusiveness and which were abandoned under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said they were overly restrictive of police activities and led to more crime.

Gupta criticized the changes.

“Under Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, the department has abdicated its responsibility and abandoned the use of tools like pattern and practice investigations and consent decrees,” the civil rights lawyer said.

“Instead, it is focused on dismantling police accountability efforts and halting any new investigations,” she claimed, though the Trump administration and Barr in particular were quick to respond to the killing of Floyd.

As she continued her testimony, Gupta outlined changes her organization has recommended Congress adopt in any new legislation aimed at ‘reforms’ for local police:

— “Create a national necessary standard on the use of force”

— “Prohibit racial profiling including robust data collection”

— “Ban the use of chokeholds and other restraint maneuvers”

— “End the militarization of policing”

— “Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially in drug cases” (Note: The FBI used a no-knock warrant to arrest long-time Trump friend Roger Stone)

— “Strengthen federal accountability systems and increase the Justice Department’s authority to prosecute officers that engage in misconduct”

— “Create a national police misconduct registry”

— “End qualified immunity”

Gupta noted that Democrats introduced legislation Monday that contains most of her organization’s recommendations.

“This is Congress’ most comprehensive effort in decades to substantially address police misconduct by taking on critical issues affecting black and brown communities,” she said.

However, she said “policing reform alone is not going to solve the crisis that we’re in today. This moment of reckoning requires leaders together with communities to envision a new paradigm of public safety, that respects the human rights of all people.”

That will include “shrinking the criminal justice system in black and brown people’s lives,” Gupta said, hours after a mob — with help from a city council member — stormed Seattle City Hall and cordoned off a six-block ‘no police zone’ outside.

Jon Dougherty

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