Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the 2021 International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference
Remarks as Prepared
(STL.News) Good morning. It is a privilege to speak to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) – you are an extraordinary organization, comprised of global leaders of one of the world’s most critical professions.
For over 125 years, you have helped shape policing. Your expertise is relied on by law enforcement leaders across the world, including by those of us at the Justice Department.
I want to thank your president, Chief Renaud, as well as Mr. Talucci and Mr. Cunningham, for their stewardship of your organization.
I know you were all looking forward to gathering together in New Orleans this year.
At this difficult time for the city, I want to express my thanks to the New Orleans Police Department, which continues to work to protect the health, safety and welfare of the city’s residents.
I also want to express my deepest sympathy to all of those who were affected by the storm.
Like all of us in law enforcement, I spend a lot of time thinking about crises, big and small.
I am reminded every day that police officers are public servants, who step in to keep their communities safe in extraordinarily difficult situations.
One of the most painful examples, of course, was a day that is on all of our minds this week: 9/11.
This weekend, I was at ground zero to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack.
Twenty years later, the loss and destruction of that day is still too much to comprehend. So, too, is the bravery that was exhibited by the NYPD and the city’s other first responders, so many of whom sacrificed their lives to save others.
We can never replace the incalculable loss of that day, but we will never stop striving to serve in a way that honors their legacy.
At the Justice Department, we believe that policing is an indispensable profession.
And we know that the IACP and law enforcement officers across the country are our indispensable partners.
The Justice Department cannot fulfill its public safety mission without you and without close collaboration with you.
We know that you are feeling the strain of the past year and a half in many ways.
So let me reinforce what I have said in many of my conversations with you and our other law enforcement partners. We want to work with you: to keep our communities safe; to protect the health and wellness of the officers who put their lives on the line; and to promote strong relationships between law enforcement and the public we serve.
Like any good partner, we come to you with humility and honest. We know that we cannot succeed without you, and we know that you will always have valuable insights to share with the Justice Department.
Our commitment to operating this way includes being humble and honest about how we carry out the department’s obligation to ensure constitutional policing practices throughout the country.
Because we value your partnership, I want to use this opportunity to break some news, but also to demonstrate the transparent and collaborative way we are approaching our work.
It is no secret that the Justice Department believes in the value of pattern-or-practice investigations.
Those investigations and the resulting settlements have led to significant improvements in police departments across the country. That, in turn, increases community trust, which is essential to making your difficult jobs safer and more effective.
It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community.
We hear you, and we take those concerns seriously.
That is why, in one of my first acts as Attorney General, I asked Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta to conduct a review of what can be done to ensure that monitorships are independent, highly qualified and free of conflicts of interest.
As part of that review, the department convened over 50 listening sessions to hear about how we can improve monitorships.
That involved listening to police chiefs, including IACP members and leaders.
As always, we are grateful for the candid and constructive insight provided.
Associate Attorney General Gupta has now finished her review.
With your help, the department has found that – while consent decrees and monitorships are important tools to increase transparency and accountability – the department can and should do more to improve their efficiency and efficacy.
The Associate Attorney General has recommended – and I have accepted – a set of 19 actions that the department will take to address those concerns.
Those actions reflect the following five principles, which will guide our use of monitorships with police departments going forward:
First, monitorships must be designed to minimize the cost to jurisdictions and to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
Monitoring is a public service, and there should be no question that the monitors’ commitment is to the department and community they serve – not to their bottom line.
To this end, future consent decrees will include caps on monitors’ fees and will restrict the ability of monitors to serve on multiple monitoring teams at the same time.
Second, monitors must be accountable for the work they do. Going forward, a monitor will be given a set term that can only be renewed after an assessment of the monitor’s performance and cost-effectiveness.
Third, monitors should assess compliance consistently across jurisdictions.
Today, the Associate Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights have announced that they will be convening a group to begin work on a set of best practices, assessment tools and training materials that can better standardize monitors’ work.
Fourth, monitors must engage in sustained and meaningful community engagement.
And finally, monitors must be incentivized to efficiently bring consent decrees to an end.
Organizational change takes time, but a consent decree cannot last forever.
We will require our consent decrees to include a court hearing after no more than five years, to assess whether termination of the decree is warranted.
To the extent that full compliance has not yet been achieved, departments will be invited to ask a court for partial termination and to use the hearing as an opportunity to make a plan for getting over the finish line.
I am grateful for the Associate Attorney General’s thoughtful work on this important topic. I encourage you to continue sharing your feedback with the department.
Your voice and your insight will help us as we work towards sustainable solutions to difficult issues.
I know that we all share a deep commitment to public safety, officer health and wellness and constitutional policing.
I am confident that by working openly and honestly with each other, we can best serve our colleagues in uniform as well as the communities that entrust us to keep them safe.
I hope very much that we will be able to meet in person soon.
In the meantime, please accept my sincere gratitude for everything you do for the policing profession and for our country.