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Ilhan Omar bill creates federal agency over local law enforcement, with power to probe police killings

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U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., plans to reintroduce a bill next week that would reportedly put more control of local policing in the hands of the federal government.

The bill, which was originally introduced in the House last December, is called the National Police Misuse of Force Investigation Board Act. The bill would require the creation of an agency similar to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates things such as major airplane crashes, but this board would be responsible for investigating deaths caused by police or while in police custody and police incidents that result in severe bodily harm.

The agency would include an eight member panel appointed to six-year terms with no more than four members being from any given political party.  Although it appears to be a bi-partisan panel, the president would be the appointing authority for the board, prompting some to feel that it would not be as bipartisan as it appears.

In addition to the investigative powers that would be granted to the board, they would also compile demographic information on police caused injuries and deaths and would have the authority to withhold federal grants to local police departments that don’t follow their recommendations.

Additionally, the board’s findings could be used in a court of law as evidence if criminal charges were filed against an officer.  For example, if this board had existed during the Derek Chauvin trial, the jurors could have been asked to consider the boards findings.


(Video: KARE 11)

In an interview with KARE 11 in Minnesota, Omar explained the bill: “This is going to be a proactive board that does the work on behalf of our country in trying to make sure that these agents of the law are taking their oath seriously and that the work they’re doing is work that helps communities feel safe.”

“It’s an existing agency. It’s one that works,” she added. “And we believe our criminal justice system needs an agency like that.”

In an email announcement from Omar’s team on April 14, Omar announced that she would reintroduce the bill, which she believes will help hold police officers accountable.

“This legislation is an important step in stopping the disturbing pattern of police violence,” her team wrote. “But we need a groundswell of grassroots support to make sure this bill becomes law.”

Not everyone thinks this legislation is a good idea. Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University was one skeptic.

“In theory, it’s a solid proposal but from a practical standpoint, unfortunately, it’s not very realistic,” she said.

Her doubt stems from the fact that the agency would oversee around 18,000 local law enforcement agencies and by contract while the NTSB oversees a fraction of that number of companies.

“Rep. Ilhan Omar will reintroduce bill establishing federal agency to investigate police killings” data-seo-title=”Rep. Ilhan Omar will reintroduce bill establishing federal agency to investigate police killings” data-abstract=”After Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd, Rep. Omar says police killings need federal oversight.”

That wasn’t the only issue Robinson raised.

“I don’t know how, from a legal standpoint and constitutional standpoint perhaps, that a federal agency would be able to delve in and require a local agency to turn over evidence,” she said. “I think the Congresswoman is correct to want to find some solid solutions to exploring these things, so, one suggestion would be that states – which do have direct authority over local departments and have some ties to be able to regulate them – could set up some of these types of agencies or commissions.”

Earlier this year, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act although the legislation will likely fail unless the filibuster is removed as it would require bipartisan support and 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

Ashley Hill

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