OBAMALAW?: Al Sharpton is calling for the creation of a national police force. And it looks like President Obama is considering the option. While the federal government undoubtedly lacks a “police power” and the concomitant authority to create a national police force, it does have a “spending power,” implied from the Constitution’s enumerated power to levy taxes, and the Supreme Court has upheld the imposition of “strings,” or conditions, on the receipt of federal funds.
In the March 2015 Interim Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing--a group created by Obama’s executive order in the wake of the Ferguson incident –certain recommendations foretell plans to provide federal funding for state and local police, the receipt of which would be dependent upon such police departments meeting requirements established by the federal government, such as:
1.8.1 ACTION ITEM: 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.
1.8.2 ACTION ITEM: The department overseeing this initiative should help localities learn best practices for recruitment, training, and outreach to improve the diversity as well as the cultural and linguistic responsiveness of law enforcement agencies.
1.8.4 ACTION ITEM: Discretionary federal funding for law enforcement programs could be influenced by that department’s efforts to improve their diversity and cultural and linguistic responsiveness.
2.1 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should collaborate with community members to develop policies and strategies in communities and neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime for deploying resources that aim to reduce crime by improving relationships, greater community engagement, and cooperation.
2.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should have comprehensive policies on the use of force that include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing. These policies must be clear, concise, and openly available for public inspection.
2.6 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to collect, maintain, and analyze demographic data on all detentions (stops, frisks, searches, summons, and arrests). This data should be disaggregated by school and non-school contacts.
2.7.2 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a mechanism for investigating complaints and issuing sanctions regarding the inappropriate use of equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations.
7.1 RECOMMENDATION: The President should direct all federal law enforcement agencies to review the recommendations made by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and, to the extent practicable, to adopt those that can be implemented at the federal level.
For recommendation 7.3, the COPS Office should consider taking actions including but not limited to the following:
•Create a National Policing Practices and Accountability Division within the COPS Office.
• Establish national benchmarks and best practices for federal, state, local, and tribal police departments.
• Provide technical assistance and funding to national, state, local,and tribal accreditation bodies that evaluate policing practices.
• Recommend additional benchmarks and best practices for state training and standards boards.
• Provide technical assistance and funding to state training boards to help them meet national benchmarks and best practices in training methodologies and content.
• Prioritize grant funding to departments meeting benchmarks
Many of the report’s recommendations are probably good ideas, but the worrisome part is that the Report contemplates federal control of local police practices via conditions placed on the receipt of federal funds. This would allow the federal government to effectively “takeover” local police practices–something the Constitution clearly would not allow the feds to do directly.
This is one to watch, folks– dangerous constitutional territory. State and local government can easily be coerced into adopting federal policies by dangling juicy federal funds in front of them.