Rep. Luis Gutierrez Lauds House Judiciary Committee's Long-Awaited Hearing on Policing Strategies
After President Barack Obama announced new policing rules, including greater involvement in the community and the banning of some military-grade equipment, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on policing strategies.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez lauded the Committee's bipartisan decision to hold the hearing, having been petitioning for it since Trayvon Martin's death.
Rep. Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois and member of the Committee, has been trying to convene a hearing on policing since 2013 to investigate the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, killed in 2012. Police failed to charge his killer, George Zimmerman, following the shooting.
However, now the House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Democratic Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) have come together and agreed on a hearing called "Policing Strategies for the 21st Century." They announced the hearing last week. Rep. Gutierrez, who represents Chicago, welcomed the Committee's decision on Monday but also criticized their previous inaction.
"I am glad the Judiciary Committee is finally looking at how police around the country conduct their business and how effectively they are serving and protecting every person and neighborhood in their jurisdictions," Rep. Gutiérrez said in a statement.
"The Committee up until now has essentially ignored one of the most pressing issues in the country as the body count of both civilians and peace officers rises," he continued. "It is past time for this hearing and a serious look at violence and guns and police in our neighborhoods, so I thank the Chairman and the Ranking Member for the hearing and I look forward to getting some answers."
President Obama at an event in Camden, New Jersey on Monday announced new policing strategies his administration would help initiate to strengthen the relationship between local police and communities as well as continue fighting crime.
As part of the new initiative, the president said some military-style equipment previously available to local police forces would no longer be allowed. Those weapons and equipment that do remain will only be used after proper training.
"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there's an occupying force, as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them," the president said. "It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message."
He also announced new policies designed to bring communities and police closer, a project Camden has championed. The president touted the city's continued success in combating crime.
He added new databases will be introduced to more cities apart from Camden and other select municipalities operating them. These will record police-related data and make it more transparent for the public to know what is happening. He also said body cameras will be used in greater numbers.
An improved relationship between police and communities is something Rep. Gutierrez has been highlighting for some time and hopes to bring his constituents concerns to the Committee.
"Young Chicagoans know that interacting with the police can be a life or death matter and I have been struck by how many kids and young adults tell me they have to prepare themselves to come in contact with cops," Rep. Gutiérrez said on Monday, reminiscing how one teenager learned de-escalation strategies, "something I would think cops should be trained in, not law abiding teenagers."
Rep. Gutierrez also worried laws the Committee passed, forcing police agencies to enforce immigration laws, would further erode the trust between community and police.
The committee heard testimonies from Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; W. Craig Hartley, Jr., Executive Director, Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies; Susan Lee Rahr, Executive Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and member of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing; and Matthew Barge, Deputy Director, Police Assessment Resource Center.
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