Conyers’ Remarks at Press Conference to Condemn Senseless Violence & Call for Congress to Act
Conyers: Out of Respect for All Who Have Lost Their Lives – Both Law Enforcement and Civilian – We Must Dedicate Ourselves to Engaging the Difficult Issues
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) joined members of the Congressional Black Caucus at a press conference today to denounce the slayings of police officers in Dallas, and the slayings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Below are Congressman Conyers’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I stand here today with a heavy heart. From Orlando, to Baton Rouge, to Falcon Heights and Dallas – our Nation is reeling from recent acts of violence. My heart goes out to the families of every single one of the victims this week, including the fallen officers in Dallas.
“Whether mass shootings, officers dying in the line of duty, killings on our streets, or lives lost at the hands of misguided police - there are too many such tragedies. Congress cannot continue to sit on the sidelines while blood flows in our streets. There are real issues of public safety impacting Americans that must be addressed at the federal level.
“I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: we need to adopt gun violence prevention legislation to expand background checks to all gun purchases, and we need to reinstate a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons. And at the same time, I also believe we need to take a comprehensive approach at addressing the issue of building and strengthening trust between local police and their communities.
“As the longest serving Member of Congress, I have dedicated a major portion of my career to policing issues and gun violence prevention, introducing legislation, chairing town hall discussions across the country, and meeting with the grieving families of fallen officers and citizens alike. As part of the now controversial 1994 Crime Bill, I was able to pass the Federal Pattern and Practice Enforcement provision that allows the Department of Justice to investigate state and local police departments, most recently like Ferguson and Baltimore, for unconstitutional and discriminatory conduct.
“Last year, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 21st Century Policing Strategies to begin addressing the issue at the Federal level. Shortly before the hearing, I introduced the End Racial Profiling Act which works to eliminate racial profiling through changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice.
“Following the hearing, I introduced the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which would provide incentives for local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of misconduct will be minimized through appropriate management, training and oversight protocols and that if such incidents do occur, that they will be properly investigated. The bill also provides police officers -- the vast majority of whom are great people who are concerned about their communities -- with the tools necessary to work with their communities and to enhance their professional growth and education.
“Since that time, Chairman Goodlatte and I have been hard at work on negotiating a version the Law Enforcement Trust & Integrity Act to bring before the Committee. However, like too many well intended efforts, we are stuck at the 1 yard line, trying to push toward a finish.
“We have been able to find agreement on major items, like accreditation standards, best practices, body cameras and even data collection. The real challenge now is finding the support to bring the bill forward in the Committee. We must find a way past objections to this most basic tenet: if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it....
“Though there has been a consistent call for mandatory data collection by law enforcement agencies – with 28 states passing some form of data collection requirements and 17 others having proposed legislation – data collection remains a serious matter of controversy in the law enforcement community.
“The tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile might have been avoided with better training, particularly in detentions and use of force, as addressed by accreditation standards and best practice provisions currently in negotiation before the Committee.
“I will continue to work with Chairman Goodlatte to see this bill progress. I will also continue to work with my colleagues to push for passage of commonsense gun violence prevention bills that we know will make us safer.
“Out of respect for all who have lost their lives – both law enforcement and civilian – we must dedicate ourselves to engaging the difficult issues to make lasting change in our communities and heal as a Nation.”
Congressman Conyers introduced both the End Racial Profiling Act and the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act to help build trust and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.