Concerns from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Regarding Invest to Protect and Police Accountability

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
House Majority Leader
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable James Clyburn
House Majority Whip
H-329, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
House Judiciary Chair
2142 Rayburn
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader
S-230, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Dick Durbin
Senate Judiciary Chair
224 Dirksen
Washington, DC 20515

RE: H.R. 6448/S. 3860 The Invest to Protect Act

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Whip Clyburn, Chair Nadler, Leader Schumer, and Chair Durbin:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 230 national organizations to promote and protect civil and human rights in the United States, we write to express our concerns regarding H.R. 6448/S. 3860, the Invest to Protect Act, and other bills relating to law enforcement funding. Many of these proposals substantially increase investments in law enforcement that have historically been used to increase policing and incarceration of Black and Brown people, yet do not include correspondingly rigorous accountability and oversight provisions to ensure that law enforcement is using these funds in accordance with the law and the Constitution. The United States already has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with Black people substantially overrepresented amongst those incarcerated. We urge you not to take up any legislation that perpetuates these harmful realities and doubles down on the broken and discriminatory criminalization-first approach to public safety. We believe there to be sufficient resources for law enforcement, but ask that any legislation providing funding to law enforcement include, at minimum, strong oversight protections that safeguard taxpayer money and ensure it is being spent in ways that advance constitutional and legal rights.

Accountability and transparency are unequivocally vital characteristics of any system of public safety, and indeed of any functioning system of democracy. Unfortunately, for too long, these characteristics have been absent when it comes to federal funding of law enforcement. For example, though authorization for the COPS program expired in 2009, Congress has continually appropriated funding despite little oversight of its use, distribution, or efficacy. In fact, no congressional hearings have ever been held to specifically examine the COPS program or other problematic provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill, and COPS Office funds have therefore been subject to little scrutiny to examine their compliance with statutory requirements — let alone the impact they have had on communities.

Similarly, many of the bills under consideration authorize large amounts of funding for law enforcement hiring, retention, training, and other purposes without any built-in accountability. The expenditure of such large sums should be accompanied by correspondingly rigorous oversight and compliance measures that ensure the money is being used appropriately. For instance, any bill authorizing funds for bonuses for officer hiring and retention should also include provisions wherein the Department of Justice (DOJ) can examine, among other factors, to whom that money has gone, whether the officers hired with those funds have engaged in any misconduct, and whether the grantee is abiding by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in its work. Such legislation should have provisions deeming non-compliant police departments ineligible for further grants. Bills that invest in training should include DOJ oversight of whether that training is effective and non-discriminatory, and DOJ should be able to condition funds on efficacy and compliance. Ultimately, any legislation in which federal dollars are given to law enforcement should contain thorough oversight and accountability provisions through which DOJ is empowered to monitor grant recipients, evaluate how grants are being used and their impact on historically marginalized communities, and condition funds on compliance, because the American people deserve to know that their money is being used effectively and in a non-discriminatory, lawful manner. 

Congress must ensure that these bills, and any like them, contain strong accountability measures to ensure money is being spent wisely and according to the law. Anything less is an abdication of congressional responsibility in favor of doling out large sums of money with no regard for possible wasteful spending or how the money spent may adversely affect marginalized communities. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Chloé White, policy counsel, at [email protected].  


Maya Wiley
President and CEO

Jesselyn McCurdy
Executive Vice President of Government Affairs