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Judge halts work of Trump police commission after NAACP complaint

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While discussing the shooting of Jacob Blake on ‘The Ingraham Angle,’ President Trump said some police officers who shoot unarmed suspects ‘choke.’

USA TODAY

A federal judge Thursday halted the work of a national law enforcement advisory commission authorized by President Donald Trump as part of a legal challenge to the group’s composition and claims that it lacked representation from police reform and civil rights groups.

The order issued by U.S. District Judge John Bates comes weeks before the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice was due to deliver to Attorney General William Barr its findings on challenges facing local police.

While the The commission was directed to produce a “fresh evaluation of the salient issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they protect,” civil rights advocates claimed that it has served to support “unfounded yet repeated public assertions” by the president and the attorney general that there is lack of respect for police.

 “That purpose is evident in the composition of the commission, which is stacked with members that are exclusively from a law enforcement background,” the NAACP Defense & Educational Fund Inc. claimed in its initial complaint. “Not a single member of the commission is a defense attorney, criminologist or other relevant academic, public-health practitioner, mental health or addiction-recovery treatment provider, offender reentry coordinator, social worker, or formerly incarcerated individual.”

Attorney General William Barr stands by President Trump as he speaks to Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth and Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis Sept. 1, 2020 in Kenosha, Wis. (Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Bates, in a 45-page opinion, concluded that the government had not met its obligation to “ensure transparency and fairly balanced (committee) membership … during this time of great turmoil over racial injustice and allegations of police misconduct.”

“The attorney general stressed the need to hear from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives such as “community organizations, civic leadership, civil rights and victim’s rights organizations, criminal defense attorneys, academia, social service organizations, and other entities that regularly interact with American law enforcement,” Bates wrote. “Despite these stated goals, however, the commission’s membership consists entirely of current and former law enforcement officials.”

The judge also took issue with the commission’s proceedings, describing them as “far from transparent.”

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates wrote.

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Trump Law Enforcement Commission Report Blocked by U.S. Judge

(Bloomberg) — A U.S. judge blocked a federal commission from releasing a final report on ways to improve policing, faulting the panel for doing its work behind closed doors and failing to include people with diverse views.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr created the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice last year. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington ruled the panel had violated the law, in part because it was comprised entirely of current and former law enforcement officials.

The commission failed to obey a mandate of the Federal Advisory Committee Act that such groups be “fairly balanced” in the viewpoints represented and that they conduct meetings that are open to the public. The decision is a win for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, which filed the suit challenging it.

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates said.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

The case is NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, 20-cv-01132, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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Federal Judge Orders Stop To Trump Law Enforcement Commission : NPR

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Republican state attorneys general at the White House on Sept. 23rd.

Evan Vucci/AP


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Evan Vucci/AP

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Republican state attorneys general at the White House on Sept. 23rd.

Evan Vucci/AP

Updated at 2:37 p.m. ET

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration’s blue-ribbon law enforcement commission on Thursday to cease its work and barred it from releasing a report until a series of legal requirements are met.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates brings a halt to the work of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice less than a month before its deadline to deliver a final report.

President Trump signed an executive order creating the commission last year to study the challenges confronting law enforcement and communities. Attorney General William Barr was tasked with putting the commission together and getting it off the ground.

From almost the beginning, civil rights groups expressed concern about the commission, saying its composition and focus was pro-law enforcement and demonstrated a disdain for police reform efforts. One of the commission’s working groups, critics noted, was titled “Respect for Law Enforcement.”

In April, the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit against the commission, arguing that it violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That law carries a number of requirements for a federal advisory committee, including that it be “fairly balanced” in the viewpoints represented and that it’s meetings be open to the public.

In his 45-page opinion, Bates found that threshold hadn’t been met.

“The commission’s membership consists entirely of current and former law enforcement officials,” he writes. “No commissioner has a criminal defense, civil rights or community organization background.”

The judge also found that the commission’s proceedings have been “far from transparent,” which he says is of particular concern right now.

“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates writes.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Thursday.

Civil rights and reform advocates, however, welcomed the court’s decision.

Miriam Krinsky, the founder and director of Fair and Just Prosecution, called the ruling “a victory for all those who are working towrads building a more fair and just criminal legal system — one grounded in racial equity and that promotes community safety and well-being.”

“Sadly, at a time when trust in law enforcement is at an all time low,” she said, “this commission represents nothing more than a sham proceeding designed to further a political agenda.”

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Judge rules federal law enforcement commission violates law, orders work stopped as attorney general prepares to issue report

The ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington came in response to a lawsuit from the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, which sought an injunction against the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice for violating laws on how federal advisory committees must work. Bates did not issue an injunction, but ordered the commission to change its membership and comply with other aspects of the law.

“Especially in 2020,” Bates wrote, “when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today.”

The 18 member commission was composed entirely of state and federal law enforcement officials, with no one from the civil rights, criminal defense, social work, religious or academic fields. Members were sworn in on Jan. 22, and then heard months of testimony by teleconference from experts in a variety of police, prosecutorial and social fields. The commission also formed 15 working groups, with more than 100 members, to draft sections of the report focusing on topics such as “Reduction of Crime,” “Respect for Law Enforcement,” “Data and Reporting” and “Homeland Security.”

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that a committee’s membership be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed,” so that its recommendations “will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority.” The working groups were also largely tied to policing, with only five of the 112 members not from law enforcement. After the suit was filed, the speakers who testified before the commission were more diverse in professional background.

Police groups lobbied Congress for years to form a commission that would take a comprehensive look at improving American policing, as a similar panel did in the 1960s, to devise new ways to fight crime and use technology to improve policing. When various bills stalled in Congress, Trump signed an executive order last October creating the new group, with the president acknowledging the assistance of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police in launching the project.

The law also requires that advisory committee meetings be open to the public, with notice posted in the Federal Register, along with a charter for the committee. The commission did not post a charter or meeting notices in the register, but did send out press releases announcing the virtual meetings as well as posting transcripts and recordings of the meetings. Reporters and others could dial in and listen to the teleconferences. A meeting which Barr held in June with the commission, on the same day Trump signed an executive order on police reform, was not announced and the Justice Department declined to release a transcript or recording.

Trump’s order called for the commission to submit its report and recommendations

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