Thursday, October 21, 2021

US Justice Department refuses to investigate police killings

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K. Brandon Freeman , CNN Written by

For more than five years, U.S. watchdog groups have asked the Department of Justice to investigate alleged police brutality. So far, they’ve gotten nowhere.

“It can’t continue without coming to a close,” said Alex Azar , head of the Project on Government Oversight, referring to the inaction of both the agency and the president.

“Sometimes the advocates just need some suggestions,” said James Wilkins , assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. “What we’ve done in the past with the small number of inquiries that we have done, they have been successful.”

At least 71 Americans have been killed by police in 2018. Yet the Department of Justice doesn’t see it that way.

Alex Azar, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, speaks to CNN’s Don Lemon about his agency’s lack of interest in investigating police violence. CNN’s Don Lemon speaks to Azar about his agency’s lack of interest in investigating police violence. Click here to watch his full interview

U.S. Department of Justice declined CNN’s request for an interview about its record on police killings in the U.S.

(CNN) – In an effort to get the federal government to investigate police killings, U.S. watchdog groups have asked the Department of Justice to do so for five years in a row. So far, the request has gone nowhere.

“It can’t continue without coming to a close,” said Alex Azar , head of the Project on Government Oversight, referring to the inaction of both the agency and the president.

“Sometimes the advocates just need some suggestions,” said James Wilkins , assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. “What we’ve done in the past with the small number of inquiries that we have done, they have been successful.”

At least 71 Americans have been killed by police in 2018. Yet the Department of Justice doesn’t see it that way.

“We do not have an open investigation, and we do not intend to initiate an investigation into any particular incident,” said Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam.

The case against Freddie Gray

According to officials and advocates, multiple cases, each with a similar set of facts, should already have triggered federal investigations.

Case Overview Freddie Gray

In the case of Freddie Gray, a black man died April 19, 2015, after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.

In 2017, prosecutors reopened the case after certain Baltimore Police Department officers were acquitted of criminal charges related to Gray’s death.

One of the prosecution’s new key witnesses was William Porter, the police officer who arrested Gray and initially was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Baltimore Police Department: Everything you need to know

In a second trial, Porter was convicted of second-degree assault and misconduct in office. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Doug Colbert, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, says the case against Freddie Gray raises questions about an officer’s responsibility for the actions of another.

“I think it’s fairly clear that Freddie Gray’s arrest was not justified,” Colbert said. “There was a total disregard for who he was. We knew this since the beginning. We learned later that he was on his knees, handcuffed and shackled, when a police wagon loaded him into the van.”

Slain civilians are a ‘virtual genocide’

An estimated 99 Americans were killed by police in 2015, the most recent year for which the Department of Justice has released statistics.

— On March 20, 2016, 23-year-old Jordan Davis was killed by a Florida police officer during a confrontation over loud music.

— In November 2015, 29-year-old Santee Cooper Jenkins died after a police officer in Burlington, North Carolina, slammed his car into Jenkins and a woman.

— In 2015, Jackie and Curtis White of South Carolina were killed by a police officer after the officer claimed the Whites’ car was driving erratically.

— Ramarley Graham’s family were arrested in 2011 for the 16-year-old’s alleged shooting of an NYPD officer in 2012.

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