WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee has established a bipartisan working group to examine both officer-involved shootings and violence against police officers after a week that saw both.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) are leading the group that got to work today with a roundtable featuring guests Rev. DeForest B. Suares, Jr., senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., and Deborah A. Ramirez, executive director for Partnering for Prevention and Community Safety Initiative and a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.
Members of the group are Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).
Goodlatte and Conyers said in a joint statement Wednesday that “these issues are not going to be solved overnight and they won’t be solved by Congress alone.”
“Our goal in creating this working group is to discuss these issues candidly with each another so that we can begin to find common ground on these matters of national importance,” the Judiciary leaders said.
Reichert, the former sheriff of King County, Wash., said that “by working with my colleagues on this working group and challenging ourselves to focus on our aligned goal of keeping our communities safe, crime in our cities will decline and lives of young men and women will be saved.”
On CNN this morning, Hurd and Jeffries appeared together to promote the new group’s mission.
“The House is stepping up — Democrats, Republicans, people on different sides of the ideological divide — to try to find common ground to this problem and propose real, concrete solutions in a dispassionate, evidence-based, intelligent fashion to try to prevent us, as America, from being in a situation again, and again, and again,” Jeffries said.
Hurd, one of two GOP African-Americans serving in the House, said “the first step is to show that despite the circus atmosphere that we see up in Washington, D.C., despite this being an election time, that we can actually work together and talk about these issues in a dispassionate way.”
“The reality is that it’s 2016 in the United States of America, and if you — whether your skin is black or brown, or your uniform is blue, you shouldn’t feel unsafe walking the streets of America. And we can solve this problem. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t let people sow fear into our hearts and minds,” he added.
Jeffries suggested the task force could “start with areas where I think Democrats and Republicans already agree, such as the need to incentivize local police departments with financial assistance, perhaps, to purchase body cameras.”
“That’s something that law enforcement and people on the Black Lives Matter side of things have embraced as something that could help bring accountability and a window into what actually happens on the streets from the perspective of both sides,” the Dem said.
His GOP counterpart, Hurd, said “the reality is we have to look at everything and we’ve got to make sure people feel comfortable with law enforcement, and that law enforcement feels comfortable with their communities.”
“And if there’s outside entities that can help in that, if there’s a role for federal view, these are some of the conversations that should happen and do it within the existing frameworks that are there,” the Texas lawmaker added.