The first of several planned House Judiciary Committee hearings on police militarization turned tense, as lawmakers debated the best ways to regulate law enforcement and outspoken Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, one of the invited panelists, shot back: Community policing is not federal business.
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The hearing, headed by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who vowed he would “not rest until we make progress,” was aimed at sifting through the last few months of citizen-generated complaints about police brutality and discrimination, and reaching legislative consensus on the use of military gear for local law enforcement, Politico reported.
Instead, lawmakers got sidetracked with discussions about the use of the word “ghetto,” and their personal accounts of being stopped by police, the news outlet said. Other issues that cropped up included the statistics of black-on-black crime, and whether that topic belonged in the police-militarization debate.
“I want us to get to the point where we lament the murder of a black female … at the hand of her abusive husband,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, Politico reported, “just as much as if it was at the hand of a white cop.”
Clarke, meanwhile, offered an entirely different line of argument for lawmakers to consider.
“Let’s leave that [police] conduct for the public to engage in, not … elected officials who can’t resist the opportunity to exploit the emotions of an uninformed or misinformed public simply for political gain,” he said.
Clarke also furthered a point he’s previously raised – that of minority communities’ current problems with police have more to do with “black underclass subculture behavior” than police practices.
The Senate held a similar hearing on Tuesday, after which consensus was reached to create a grant program to provide funding as incentives for police to enact certain policy reforms, Politico reported.