Civil Rights Advocates Urge Congress to Block DOJ Police Funding Program ‘Operation Relentless Pursuit’

Amber English Coleman, Civil Rights Corps, 202.894.6141
Rafael Medina, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 202.869.0390

WASHINGTON, DC – Civil Rights Corps, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and more than 75 civil rights groups from around the country submitted a letter to the House Committees on Appropriations and Oversight and Reform in opposition to Operation Relentless Pursuit (ORP), the Department of Justice program that encourages the over-policing of Black and Brown communities while doing nothing to increase public safety. 

“For decades, the federal government has dumped resources into a criminal-legal system that has caused untold harm to Black and other communities,” said Thea Sebastian, Policy Counsel for Civil Rights Corps. “Now, even as people nationwide are protesting police violence and our misplaced priorities, the Department of Justice is making the same mistake that helped lead us here: investing heavily in police and prosecutors rather than the non-carceral, community-led programs that genuinely keep neighborhoods safe.”

“The ORP program serves only to continue police departments’ legacy of systemic racism by criminalizing and over-policing Black and Brown communities,” said LaShawn Warren, executive vice president of government affairs at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “In order to achieve true public safety, the federal government must invest in non-carceral, community-led programs and local elected officials should reject the ORP program. Congress must also conduct robust oversight of the program and prohibit the future use of federal funds to support this program. This is the only way to end the damaging consequences of these criminalization programs and their negative impacts by police departments with deeply rooted histories of racial violence and injustice.”

“The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others have inspired nationwide demands to shrink the footprint of the criminal-legal system and end it’s abuses, including those by police departments,” the groups write in the letter. “If we are to meet these demands and provide genuine safety to all communities, the federal government must begin investing in non-carceral, community-led programs rather than continuing to increase funding for police departments with deeply-rooted histories of racial violence and injustice.”

Read the full letter here

“Launched in December 2019, Operation Relentless Pursuit is projected to funnel $71 million this year to law enforcement in seven cities – Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, and Milwaukee –under the guise of combatting violent crime,” the groups continue in the letter. “To date, DOJ has already allocated – but not dispersed – $51 million in Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office funds and $10 million in Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for ORP in these jurisdictions.” 

“Operation Relentless Pursuit replicates the most devastating aspects of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which flooded America’s streets with cops and dramatically increased incarceration rates, especially in Black and Brown communities,” the letter continues. “ORP funds a similar influx of police officers and federal agents, bolsters prosecutors’ offices, and incentivizes additional federal criminal prosecutions by requiring departments receiving funds to investigate and prosecute certain federal crimes, such as drug trafficking and gang involvement These actions are not constructive ways to achieve true public safety but serve only to continue the legacy of systemic racism and criminalization of minority communities.” 

The groups ask that the House Oversight Committee conduct robust oversight of funds already committed to ORP for Fiscal Year 2020, and urge the Appropriations Committee and all Members of Congress to oppose any funding for ORP moving forward.

Read the full letter here.