(CNSNews.com) – Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network, and host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” used his opening testimony at the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on policing practices to call on Congress to set federal standards and enact federal law on the use of excessive force by police departments nationwide.
“What we really seek is this committee to begin moving toward federal law and federal standards that would define clearly where the line is in terms of excessive force and take this argument from a state and local level to where there’s a federal standard that all must abide by,” he said.
Sharpton said that “different counties react different ways” on allegations of excessive force, and it reminds him of the early stages of the civil right movement.
“Until the federal government stepped in, they would have to fight state-by-state, county-by-county against segregation, so it was the judgment of Martin Luther King Jr., and others to appeal for federal government intervention rather than fight in Alabama, then have to fight in Georgia, etc., etc.,” he said.
“Unless the federal government steps in and deals with federal standards and federal laws, we will be subjected to the local politics and at the whims of local back and forward that could differ in another state. We need to have federal law that sets various un-impugned standards that will be followed,” Sharpton said.
“What do I mean by that? Federal government determined in several states, several counties, several cities, that they were going to place certain police departments in where the Justice Department would be over and supervise them because there was a pattern and practice that demonstrated excessive force,” he said.
Sharpton said the Trump administration suspended federal intervention in several cities.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed a memorandum in November 2018 giving guidelines on civil consent decrees and settlement agreements “designed to ensure that consent decrees with state and local governments are narrowly tailored to remedy the alleged violations, and are not used to extract greater relief from the state or local government than the Department could obtain through litigation.”
“When this present administration came in, they immediately suspended that in several of those cities. They had not been in long enough to make an investigation, so what was the determination that made them decide that they would stop what had been determined by the Justice Department before them after an investigation?” Sharpton said.
“This committee needs to investigate why incoming Attorney General Sessions upheld now by Barr withheld and removed this designation, because it really sends the signal that we will allow patterns and practice to continue even though a Justice Department – not National Action Network, not activists, not Black Lives Matters – the Justice Department said there was a pattern,” he said.
Sharpton called for changing regulations for the use of body cameras so that they cannot be turned off.
“When we look at a Gwen Carr – five years waiting on a decision from the federal government on whether charges would be brought, and we read public notices that the civil rights division wanted to charge, but the locals didn’t want to charge,” he said.
“For families to have to go through this, it shows again how nebulous and undefined the federal laws are. Just as civil rights activists had to appeal to the federal government 50 years ago to intervene and save us from states’ rights mentality. We need to rise above states’ rights mentality and law enforcement and set federal law,” Sharpton said.
“I’m heartened to hear the head of FOP said that they’re willing to be at the table and in these discussions to see where there can be consensus, because we do need consensus. Let me repeat, when police are killed. We are standing firmly against that. Ms. Carr and I led a march when two policemen were killed in New York. Another was killed. The family had invited me to see them. Some of the unions got angry. We gave $5,000 for a fund with that,” he said.
Sharpton also clarified that he is not against the police - he’s against police brutality. He also stressed that he doesn’t like the president.
“We’re not anti-police. We’re anti-police brutality, but even when we stand up when police are killed, we have yet to see police unions stand up one time when one of their officers killed someone in the community unjustifiably. I’m not saying every policeman is wrong. The majority of them go out with many reasons to wonder whether they will come home, and they protect all of us, but those that step outside the law must be punished, and the federal government must make that happen,” he said.
“This is not about anti-police. This is about upholding the law, and no one should want bad cops punished more than good cops whose names are smeared, because people get to choke people on tape, hearing 11 times, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and you’ve got to go through five years of torment and finally be turned down and gotta beg, pray and march to just take his job. This is not what America should be about,” Sharpton said.
“The president and others can excuse it. I think it’s on the Congress to act. The president says I hate cops. No, I just dislike the president. I don’t hate cops,” he said.