Following the protests and riots in Ferguson last year, President Obama created a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to examine policing problems and make recommendations. The Task Force issued its final report last month. In this post, I want to highlight the numerous ways in which the report would expand the role of the federal government.
By way of background, policing is supposed to be the near-exclusive province of state and local government under the U.S. Constitution. The federal government is nevertheless constantly seeking to expand its jurisdiction. The number of federal crimes and the number of federal law enforcement agents keeps rising. Members of Congress also like to throw millions and millions of dollars at local police departments. Of course, having accepted the money, local policymakers are now swamped with myriad federal conditions and mandates. On top of that, the feds have entwined themselves with local police with the creation of hundreds of permanent joint federal-state police units that operate to enforce narcotics, guns, and immigration offenses.
President Obama’s Task Force is now recommending a host of actions to expand the role of the federal government even further. Here is an excerpt from the final report (pdf):
The President should support and provide funding for the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force to review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system for the purpose of making recommendations to the country on comprehensive criminal justice reform.
The President should promote programs that take a comprehensive and inclusive look at community-based initiatives that address the core issues of poverty, education, health, and safety.
The Federal Government should develop survey tools and instructions for use of such a model to prevent local departments from incurring the expense and to allow for consistency across jurisdictions.
The Federal Government should create a Law Enforcement Diversity Initiative designed to help communities diversify law enforcement departments to reflect the demographics of the community.
Discretionary federal funding for law enforcement programs could be influenced by that department’s efforts to improve their diversity and cultural and linguistic responsiveness.