NAAG CIVIL RIGHTS CONFERENCE May 10, 2000
I am pleased to be here today. Bill Lee sends his apologies -- he was looking forward to being here today; he has been in Los Angeles all week in negotiations with the LAPD.
is conference is a great opportunity for all of us to reconnect and meet new colleagues. Many Civil Rights Division lawyers will be attending this week and look forward to working with you in the future. There is certainly enough work for all of us.
I oversee the work of the Civil Rights Division -- which is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. (Insert your prior civil rights work)
I'd like to share with you some of the priority issues the Division is facing. You will be discussing most of them in greater detail during the conference so this is just a preview:
- The problem of police misconduct is of great moment. We have made enormous progress in reducing crime and in promoting community policing, but the public responses to the shooting of Amadou Diallo and the brutal assault on Abner Louima are signs of a breakdown of trust in many of the nation's communities.
- We know we have a problem when, as a recent Gallup poll shows, two out of three whites say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police. But only one out of four African Americans say the same. We know we have a problem when far too many people, in the wake of a shooting, immediately assume the police officer, not the suspect, is at fault.
- Effective policing does not require ignoring the constitutional rights and civil liberties that police officers are sworn to uphold. Effective policing means law enforcement living up to a compact with the communities they serve. It involves a commitment to fairness and accountability, and treating every citizen with respect and dignity.
- The Justice Department is combating police misconduct in four central ways. First, we are investigating at any given time several hundred individual allegations of police misconduct for violations of criminal civil rights laws around the country. The Diallo case is an example. Another example was our successful prosecution involving the beating of Rodney King after acquittals in state proceedings in Los Angeles. Since 1993, we have criminally prosecuted more than 200 law enforcement officers for similar willful violations of constitutional rights.
- Second, we bring civil suits against police departments alleging patterns or practices of police misconduct such as the use of excessive force, the failure to adequately discipline and train officers, and racial profiling. We were given this pattern or practice authority by Congress in 1994, in the wake of the Rodney King incident. Last December, we filed a case accompanied by a consent decree against the New Jersey State Police based on admitted evidence of racial profiling on the State's highways against African-American and Hispanic drivers. In a model decree, New Jersey agreed to prohibit its state troopers from relying on race or national origin when making traffic stops, to document the race and national origin of all drivers stopped, to publicly disclose traffic stop statistics, to strengthen supervision, to provide better training, to institute an early warning system and to provide for monitoring.
- We have reached settlement agreements with the police departments in Pittsburgh, Stubenville, Ohio and Montgomery County, Maryland, concerning use of force, racial profiling and other constitutional violations. We are currently investigating a number of other police departments including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Riverside, California, New Orleans, and New York City in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts. The investigation of the NYPD includes examination of the Street Crime Unit, the outfit involved in the Diallo shooting.
- The third way the Justice Department has brought about change in law enforcement is through employment discrimination litigation.
- Combating employment discrimination also helps us combat police misconduct. Ending exclusionary practices opens the talent pool. Police forces that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve also are better able to form positive working relationships with community members, leading to more effective law enforcement.
- Fourth, the Department of Justice has many programs that support the concept of community-oriented policing. We are augmenting our enforcement efforts with outreach and training programs in which we have brought together police departments, union leaders, community groups, and experts to develop best practices and to make recommendations so that problems can be avoided.
- Hate crimes are the most visible evidence that the promise of equal opportunity and fairness in our Constitution and civil rights laws is not yet a reality. Hate crimes ruin the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
- Last summer we had incidents of hate crimes involving Jewish, religious, gay, black, and Asian American victims in Sacramento, Chicago, Bloomington and Los Angeles committed by self-avowed white supremacists. The shootings in Pittsburgh last week are grim reminders of this problem.
- Despite the wave of hate crimes we have seen, we must not allow those who would divide us to prevail. The Justice Department is doing what it can to prosecute these crimes, backing up local authorities, but combating hate crimes is not merely a job for law enforcement. As you know from your efforts, it is a job for an entire community: for our schools, for our religious institutions, our civic organizations and each one of us as individuals.
- Together with NAAG, we are working to strengthen existing federal hate crimes legislation. Congress failed to enact our proposed bill the past two years, but maybe this year it will do the right thing. As you know, the legislation would amend the current federal hate crimes law to permit the federal investigation and prosecution of a greater range of violent hate crimes and extending federal jurisdiction to crimes motivated by hatred based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability. It would allow the Civil Rights Division to back up local and state law enforcement better. Gaining passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act is one of our top legislative priorities this year.
Fair housing is another high priority for us. Recent reports reveal that African Americans encounter discrimination 44% of the time in their search for rental housing and 33% of the time in their attempts to purchase a home. Latinos fare similarly poorly, encountering discrimination 37% of the time when seeking rental housing and 42% of the time when trying to buy a home.
We are extremely pleased to have worked successfully with the office of Bob Butterworth, Florida Attorney General, in our investigation of and litigation against the Adam's Mark hotel chain. Shortly after a private class action lawsuit was filed against the Daytona Beach Adam's Mark in the spring of 1999, alleging egregious discrimination by the hotel against African American guests and visitors during Black College Reunion 1999, we joined with the Florida AG's office in an extensive investigation of the chain's practices.
That investigation led both of our offices to a determination that race discrimination was an ongoing practice of the chain. We participated along with the private plaintiffs and Mr. Butterworth's staff in mediation to resolve all claims against the chain. When mediation was unsuccessful, we proceeded with litigation against Adam's Mark, filing our complaint on the same day that Florida filed its motion to intervene in the private case.
Subsequent settlement negotiations between all parties were successful, with the parties ultimately agreeing in March of this year on comprehensive settlement documents providing for injunctive and affirmative relief and monetary relief of $8,000,000. Throughout this litigation, we worked closely with Bob Butterworth, his deputies, Paul Hancock and George Sheldon, and Allison Bethel and Kathleen Burgener of their staff in what we consider to be a model of federal and state cooperation toward a common goal.
Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is another top priority. Enacted nearly 10 years ago, this landmark law is beginning to integrate disabled people into the mainstream by removing barriers in communications, architecture and attitude. We are very pleased that many State Attorneys General offices are working with us on ADA enforcement.
In the past year, we negotiated, through mediation, a comprehensive consent decree with the world's largest hotel chain, Days Inn of America. Under the agreement, Days Inn agreed to undertake a nationwide initiative designed to make hundreds of its new hotels more accessible to people with disabilities. This agreement resolves four years of litigation that followed an 18-month investigation of newly constructed Days Inns across the country. It serves as a model for the hotel industry.
The Department has been involved in two issues concerning the P.L. 94-171 Census data that may have some impact, in some parts of the country, on post-census redistricting: sampling and multi-racial responses.
We expect very soon to have further guidance from the Department of Commerce regarding the Accuracy and Coverage Evaluation and the basis for their current prediction that sample data is likely to be the most accurate data. The Civil Rights Division has always had a policy of relying on the data the Census issues as P.L. 94-171 data for its evaluation and review of redistricting plans.
OMB has issued a directive explaining how federal agencies will consider, for civil rights enforcement purposes, persons who indicate more than one race on the 2000 census. For redistricting purposes, the basic goal is to insure that no vote dilution occurs.
- The Civil Rights Division is willing to provide assistance with clarifying the applicable legal standards, particularly for jurisdictions covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but also, under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, for states generally, as they begin the redistricting process. To that end we have assigned individual attorneys to each Section 5 state, to serve as liaisons with your offices and with other state and local redistricting officials.
Title VI Training
We now provide training on how to enforce Title VI, the prohibition on discrimination by recipients of federal assistance. We have trained national associations of state officials; and the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, among others.
In addition to our Title VI legal manual and investigative procedures manual, both of which are available on the Division's website, we have issued a policy document that explains how Title VI applies to block grant funds.
The issues I have talked about today are hard to resolve.
But working with NAAG and all of your offices, we hope we can make progress. Enjoy the conference.