May 22, 2024

Warren, Strickland Reintroduce the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act to Strengthen Accountability and Combat Discriminatory Police Practices

Bill Text (PDF) | Bill One-Pager (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) announced the reintroduction of the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024, to strengthen the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) and state governments’ ability to hold police and other officials accountable for discriminatory practices. 

The Senate co-sponsors of this bill include: Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

After Michael Brown was tragically shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri Police officer in 2014, President Obama’s DOJ launched a civil rights investigation, which concluded that the Ferguson Police Department (PD) had a history of engaging in unlawful and discriminatory practices. The investigation resulted in a consent decree, a legally enforceable reform agreement between the federal government and the Ferguson PD, requiring Ferguson PD to establish stronger restrictions on the use of force by officers.  

During the Trump administration, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions severely limited the DOJ’s ability to use consent decrees and other tools to push police departments to address unconstitutional behavior. This bill seeks to prevent future harmful attacks on civil rights investigations and remedies by giving state governments the tools necessary to act when the DOJ does not. 

“Police departments shouldn’t get away with chokeholds, unconstitutional searches, or killing unarmed teenagers. Our criminal justice system is broken – fixing it starts with holding police officers and departments accountable for discriminatory practices and ensuring thorough civil rights investigations are happening, free of conflicts of interest,” said Senator Warren

“Regardless of your zip code, race, ethnicity, or background, we all want safe communities. I’m proud to introduce and lead the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act to ensure that all people are properly served, protected, and respected,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland

The bill was first introduced in July 2020 and reintroduced in June 2021. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024 would: 

  • Empower state attorneys general to pursue pattern-or-practice investigations, providing a critical backstop if the DOJ fails to act, and create a grant program — with robust monitoring and accountability for how grant funds are used — to assist states in pursuing investigations and consent decrees.
  • Increase funding for the DOJ Civil Rights Division by dedicating $445 million per year for the next 10 years, including for the Division and states to pursue these investigations into police departments, prosecutors’ offices, judges, and certain other government offices with a history of engaging in unconstitutional and discriminatory practices.
  • Encourage the DOJ to look beyond traditional law enforcement mechanisms when fashioning remedies with police departments, and consider reform mechanisms like mental health support, civilian oversight bodies, and community-based restorative justice programs.
  • Prevent conflicts of interest in pattern-or-practice investigations by barring certain officials from being designated to bring federal actions for pattern-or-practice violations if there would be a conflict of interest. 

“If law enforcement fails to uphold the most fundamental principles of equality and justice for all, there should be accountability. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act is a tool in our battle to confront systemic civil rights violations and better our nation’s policing practices. We must work to rebuild trust in our criminal justice system, and that starts with empowering the DOJ and state governments to investigate police departments if they employ unconstitutional policies or practices,” said Senator Booker.

“It is unconscionable that communities of color continue to be overpoliced and disproportionately targeted by our criminal justice system—simply because of the color of their skin. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act represents an opportunity to answer decades-long demands for greater police reform, improve accountability and help restore trust between law enforcement agencies and our communities. It’s long overdue,” said Senator Duckworth

“I’m proud to support this legislation to combat patterns of police misconduct, which will create safer conditions for law enforcement, as well as the communities they serve. After President Trump’s Attorney General limited the tools DOJ could use to combat harmful police practices, state attorneys general – including Hawaii’s – asked for the power to step up their own enforcement efforts. This bill responds by ensuring consent decrees can be used by DOJ, broadens the remedy to include alternative reform mechanisms like mental health support, and empowers the states to pursue pattern-or-practice investigations,” said Senator Hirono.

“The Department of Justice has the oversight tools to push for meaningful police reforms in our local communities, and it should look beyond traditional law enforcement mechanisms and outdated remedies. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act would empower state attorneys general and offer grants so that police departments can implement robust reform such as mental health support, civilian oversight bodies, and community-based restorative justice programs. I’m proud to support this far-reaching legislation that would improve our criminal legal system,” said Senator Markey.

“A police badge isn’t a free pass to commit crimes with impunity. Everyone in our country should be able to trust that the policing and justice systems will work fairly for them—regardless of the color of their skin—and that means we need to reimagine these systems to rebuild trust. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act is an important step toward holding police officers and departments accountable for racist and discriminatory policing. Congress must pass this bill to take a stand against discrimination and improve public safety for all,” said Senator Merkley.

“The Justice Department needs the ability to conduct investigations into police departments that engage in unconstitutional policing. This legislation will help provide the necessary tools to do that and implement reforms that strengthen transparency, accountability, and responsiveness,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Systemic racism has plagued America’s police departments for decades. Ending this pattern of unjust discrimination and establishing a path to fair policing begins with meaningful reforms and stronger accountability measures for law enforcement engaging in unlawful practices. This bill works to address systemic racism in policing by strengthening federal and state governments’ power to investigate and hold police departments suspected of exercising discriminatory behavior accountable,” said Senator Welch.

“When those wearing a badge continue to evade responsibility and accountability for violations of people’s civil rights, there needs to be a real change. More than a century of racism in our police departments and our criminal justice system needs to be addressed at its root. Consent decrees are essential legal tools to go after rogue police departments for discriminatory, unconstitutional practices. The Trump administration's attack on consent decrees has demonstrated the need for legislative action to put an end to harmful policing in every corner of our country,” said Senator Wyden

Endorsing Organizations: ACLU, NAACP, National Urban League, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Color of Change, Public Rights Project, National Action Network, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. 

“Senator Warren's bill is an important step in the fight for reform and accountability for police officers. True accountability is essential for achieving equity in the Black community, which has been burdened by the criminal legal system's failure to hold corrupt officers responsible. This legislation is a critical move towards ensuring that law enforcement are held accountable for their treatment of Black Americans. It’s important that Congress empowers state and federal agencies to rigorously investigate and reform policing practices that disproportionately harm Black communities. Color Of Change is a proud supporter of this critical piece of legislation,” said Michael Huggins, Deputy Senior Director of Federal Policy at Color of Change.

“The history of police brutality against and profiling of people of color in the United States demands action. Congress can start to address and tackle racist and abusive policing by empowering State Attorneys General with the tools necessary to investigate police misconduct. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024 would take an important step in that direction, and we applaud Sen. Warren for advancing the fight for justice. Congress must establish accountability for police who abuse their power,” said Sean Vitka, Policy Director at Demand Progress.

“The issue of police violence in Black communities across the country has been exacerbated by the struggle victims of police violence experience in obtaining justice. This country is in dire need of measures that seek to ensure that law enforcement agencies with racially discriminatory policing practices are being held accountable. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act is an important first step towards holding these agencies accountable by ensuring that impacted communities are a part of the oversight process and encouraging states to implement law enforcement reforms and pursue investigations of police departments who engage in discriminatory policing practices,” said Zha’Mari Hurley, Associate Policy Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.