Heinrich Backs Legislation To Hold Police Departments Accountable For Discriminatory Practices

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich is an original cosponsor of the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act to strengthen the federal and state governments' ability to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional and discriminatory behavior.

“For too long we have allowed a system of racial injustices and police violence to continue to target and harm communities of color across this country,” said Heinrich. “It is time that we reinstate policies that empower federal and state investigations and that have proven to be effective in reforming problematic police departments. I am proud to support this legislation that promotes commonsense police reforms and will continue to stand up for equal justice and civil rights.”

In June, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined 17 Democratic state attorneys general in a letter to Congressional Leadership, urging Congress to expand the law enforcement misconduct section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to give state attorneys general clear statutory authority under federal law to investigate and resolve patterns or practices unconstitutional policing by local police departments in their respective states. 

"To protect the safety of our communities and the integrity of our law enforcement agencies, we must have the tools to enforce accountability and transparency; and this legislation is a critical step in that process," said Attorney General Balderas. "I am grateful to Senator Heinrich for his leadership, as we continue working to protect New Mexican families."

The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act would:

  • Rescind the November 2018 memorandum issued by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which placed limits on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ability to enter into consent decrees to reform police departments with a history of unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices. 
  • Empower state Attorneys General to pursue pattern or practice investigations, providing a critical backstop if DOJ fails to act, and create a grant program to assist states in pursuing investigations and consent decrees. 
  • Triple funding for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, and dedicate $100 million per year for the next 10 years to the Division to pursue these investigations into police departments with a history of engaging in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices.

The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act is led in the Senate by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), and in the House by U.S. Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). The legislation is endorsed by the National Urban League, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), National Action Network, Demand Progress, and the Public Rights Project.

Senator Heinrich is also a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, which includes provisions to strengthen pattern or practice investigations into police misconduct, including giving DOJ subpoena power in pattern or practice cases and providing grants to state Attorneys General to conduct pattern or practice investigations.

Find the full text of the bill here and a one-pager here