By Steve Schuster
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division met with civil rights organizations Wednesday at the Justice Department.
“Department leadership heard from attending organizations on an array of topics including hate crimes and reporting, educational equity, voting rights, implementation of Executive Order 14074 on policing and criminal justice issues, and reproductive rights,” Justice Department officials said.
Supplemental data released this Spring from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that reported hate crime incidents in 2021 rose to 10,840 incidents, the highest level recorded in more than two decades. ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) said the updated count provides a more complete picture of hate crimes in America, and is a step toward a more accurate reflection of the lived experience of marginalized communities across the country today.
“Data drives policy. Moving forward, law enforcement agencies must urgently commit to hate crime data collection and reporting, and Congress must make it mandatory for state and local law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding to participate in the FBI’s hate crime data collection efforts each year. Absent comprehensive and inclusive data, policymakers will lack the critical information that is needed to address these concerning trends,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO in a press release earlier this year.
Some of the Justice Department’s recent work on equity issues include: publishing ‘a Dear Colleague letter’ on the imposition and enforcement of fines and fees on adults and youth by state and local courts and juvenile justice agencies and the release of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the safety of communities, “while advancing thoughtful, evidence-informed initiatives and reforms throughout the criminal justice system,” as put forth in the Department’s Strategic Plan.
In the ‘Dear Colleague letter,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta wrote that, “Justice in the United States should not depend on one’s income or background.”
In a May 25, 2022 Executive Order, President Biden noted that “since early 2020, communities around the country have faced rising rates of violent crime, requiring law enforcement engagement at a time when law enforcement agencies are already confronting the challenges of staffing shortages and low morale.”
Biden’s order said in an effort to increase public trust and enhance public safety, “we must commit to new practices in law enforcement recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention, as well as training, oversight, and accountability.”
The meeting comes in advance of the three-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and the one-year anniversary of the May 2022 Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing, and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety.
Department leadership pledged to continue robust civil rights enforcement in line with the Attorney General’s commitment to a department-wide approach to civil rights and to thoughtfully engaging communities on the issues that impact them.