WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has re-introduced the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA), S. 3195, which is designed to address the issue of police accountability and build trust between police departments and the communities they serve. This legislation provides incentives for local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of misconduct will be reduced through appropriate management, training and oversight protocols. Finally, the legislation authorizes funds for the implementation of consent decrees and judgements entered into between the Department of Justice and local police departments, such as the Baltimore Police Department.
“Our communities are safer when law enforcement and the people they protect can work together. Officer-involved shootings or the use of deadly force have led to numerous criminal investigations and trials,” said Senator Cardin. “As the Senate moves to consider criminal justice reform, Congress should take this opportunity to address the urgent issue of reforming our police agencies. It’s finally time that we took comprehensive steps to restore hope and trust in our neighborhoods. We need to ensure that all our citizens’ rights are preserved while giving police the tools they need to re-engage with the families and individuals they are there to protect.”
In the case of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015, the Department of Justice opened a federal pattern-and-practice investigation into the conduct of the Baltimore Police Department. The investigation ultimately led to an exhaustive report in 2016 which detailed years of systemic civil rights violations with little accountability for misconduct. In 2017 the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland entered the consent decree into force as a court.
“LETIA would authorize additional funds to implement these types of consent decrees, such as this consent decree supported by both the City of Baltimore and the Department of Justice. The citizens of Baltimore deserve effective and constitutional policing in order for the city to thrive,” Senator Cardin added. “Congress can help immediately by passing LETIA.”
LETIA would ensure that if such incidents do occur, they will be properly investigated. The bill also provides police officers – the vast majority of whom perform their jobs professionally and put their lives on the line daily – with the tools necessary to improve community relations and enhance their professional growth and education. The legislation requires the Attorney General to study and report on administrative due-process procedures for police officers, and to create a national task force on law enforcement oversight. The bill provides enhanced funding to combat police misconduct and improves federal data collection on police practices, including the use of deadly force by and against police.
Senator Cardin: “These events have galvanized the nation’s attention and demand a response. I agree fully with former President Obama, who said: ‘There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly. Our police officers will do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly.’”
LETIA is consistent with the recommendations of the Final Report of the President’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, issued in May 2015. The report stated: “Decades of research and practice support the premise that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe that those who are enforcing it have authority that is perceived as legitimate by those subject to authority…Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian – rather than a warrior – mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the republic.”
The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA) takes a comprehensive approach at addressing the issue of police accountability and building trust between police departments and their communities. The Act makes seven concrete steps toward improving law enforcement management and misconduct prosecution tools.
Title I: Law Enforcement Accreditation
This title requires Attorney General to perform an initial analysis of existing law enforcement accreditation standards and to recommend areas for the development of additional national standards for accreditation of police agencies in conjunction with law enforcement accreditation groups, law enforcement associations, and labor and community-based groups. Such an analysis shall include a review of the recommendations of the Final Report of the President’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, issued in May 2015.
Additionally, the Attorney General will recommend the adoption of uniform standards – including use of force procedures – for greater community law enforcement accountability. Further, it authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to police agencies for the purpose of obtaining accreditation from certified professional law enforcement accreditation organizations.
Title II: Law Enforcement Development Programs
This Title authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to States, units of local government, Indian Tribal Governments, or other public and private entities, and multi-jurisdictional or regional consortia to study law enforcement agency management and operations. Grants would also help develop pilot programs to implement best practices focused on effective training, recruitment, hiring, management and oversight of law enforcement officers, which would also provide focused data for the development of additional accreditation standards.
Title III: Administrative Due Process Procedures
This Title requires the Attorney General to study the prevalence and impact of any law, rule or procedure that allows a law enforcement officer to delay for an unreasonable or arbitrary period of time the answer to questions posed by a local internal affairs officer, prosecutor, or review board on the investigative integrity and prosecution of law enforcement misconduct.
Title IV: Enhanced Funding To Combat Police Misconduct & Reform Police Departments
This Title authorizes $25 million for additional expenses relating to the enforcement of civil rights statues – including compliance with consent decree or judgments – regarding police misconduct brought by the Department of Justice, pursuant to Section 210401 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (now 34 U.S.C. 12601).
This Title also authorizes appropriations for additional expenses relating to conflict resolution, including programs managed by the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Services, within the Civil Rights Division.
Title V: National Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight
This provision requires the Department of Justice to establish a task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct. It also authorizes appropriations to support task force efforts.
Title VI: Federal Data Collection on Police Practices
This provision requires each Federal, State, and local law enforcement agency to report to the Attorney General data on the following: 1) traffic violation stops; 2) pedestrian stops and detentions; and 3) the use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers, including the outcome (injury or death) and the law enforcement agency’s justification, if applicable.
Title VII: Medallions for Fallen Law Enforcement Officers
This provision requires the Department of Justice, in cooperation with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, to create and provide a distinctive medallion to be issued to the survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty or memorialized on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.