November 19, 2020
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A second local prosecutor on Thursday asked the U.S. Justice Department to have his name removed from a controversial report on policing reforms, saying he feared it would fail to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Mark Dupree, the district attorney in Wyandotte County, Kansas, told U.S. Attorney General William Barr in a letter seen by Reuters he felt the work of the department’s special law enforcement commission had been “smothered by a pernicious political agenda.”
The commission started working before the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
Dupree, an African American, is the second person who worked on the commission to resign.
He is also at least the third person involved with the commission known to voice concerns the Justice Department was not adequately considering feedback from all interested parties on improving policing practices in America.
Reuters previously reported that Gina Hawkins, a commissioner and a police chief in North Carolina, had raised similar concerns.
A Justice Department spokeswoman could not be immediately reached.
In October, a federal judge temporarily halted the Justice Department from publishing the commission’s report, saying it had violated federal open meetings laws.
The ruling came after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF) sued the panel, alleging it lacked diverse membership, allowed police interest groups to have undue influence on the commission’s work, and failed to give ample access to open meetings.
The commission had planned to deliver a slate of proposals recommending sweeping new powers for police shortly before the November presidential election.
Attorney General William Barr in January said the commission would recommend best practices at a time when “criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers.”
Draft chapters of the report obtained by Reuters show the report calls for bolstering due-process protections for officers accused of wrongdoing and expanding police surveillance powers. But none of them address any concerns about systemic racism in policing.
Earlier this month, the judge told the Justice Department it could only release the final report if it includes a disclaimer saying it was written in violation of federal open meeting laws.
A court filing this week indicated the Justice Department may release the report in the coming weeks, though the NAACP LDF is still fighting for all drafts and internal communications to be made public.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Tom Brown)