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Connolly Introduces Legislation to Establish Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement

Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, introduced the Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement (SIGLE) Act, legislation aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in American law enforcement by establishing a Special Inspector General tasked with conducting, supervising, and coordinating investigations of potential abuse or misconduct committed by law enforcement agencies and officers.

“For too long, American law enforcement has operated under a culture of relative impunity,” said Connolly. “That has got to change. We need accountability, not impunity. It’s time for law enforcement to answer to the communities they serve. It’s time for a Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement.”

As the number of federal law enforcement officers has ballooned from 88,000 in 2000 to 132,000 in 2016, independent watchdogs contend that questions into use of force, management, training, tactics, and even crime and corruption, have been met with little sustained supervision. The SIGLE Act establishes the Office of the Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement and authorizes it to conduct investigations regarding federal law enforcement officers or agencies engaged in racial profiling, officer misconduct, use of excessive force, use of deadly force, and patterns or practices of unconstitutional misconduct.

The bill would require state and local law enforcement agencies to establish a process for referring use of deadly force cases to the SIGLE for investigation. This mechanism for independent investigation will provide a lifeline of transparency and accountability for frustrated communities that feel justice is denied all too often in such cases. The original Minneapolis Police Department statement after the murder of George Floyd read, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”

“A nine-minute citizen video is possibly the only reason George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Officer Chauvin was brought to light. We must protect those who help expose abuses by law enforcement,” Connolly continued. “The bill would authorize the SIGLE to investigate retaliation against whistleblowers and provides the opportunity for civil and criminal prosecution in cases of retaliation.”

The bill also includes substantial whistleblower protections for citizens, state and local law enforcement officers, government employees and contractors, and others who make protected disclosures to the Special Inspector General.

The SIGLE will be required to report to Congress quarterly on its activities, including recommendations and agency responses. Every year, the SIGLE will report the total number of use of deadly force cases, use of excessive force complaints, and findings of misconduct involving federal law enforcement officers, as well as a separate annual report on whistleblower discrimination and retaliation.

The SIGLE Act is endorsed by a wide array of civil rights, law enforcement, and good government organizations: Government Accountability Project, Fairfax County NAACP, Prince William County NAACP, Academics Stand Against Poverty, ACORN8, Advocacy for Principled Action in  Government, Affiliation of Christian Engineers, Apollo AI, Blacks in Government Heritage Chapter,  Congress Against Racism and Corruption in Law Enforcement, Consumer Action, Corruption Kills, CovertAction Magazine, Democracy 21, Illinois Innocence Project, International Association of  Whistleblowers (IAW), Lamplighter Project,LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Muslim American Law Enforcement Association (MALEA), NAACP Inglewood  Branch, National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), National Medical Malpractice Advocacy  Association (NMMAA), National Organization for Women, National WorkrightsInstitute, Open The  Government,, Strategies for Justice, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, The Signals  Network, Tully Center for Free Speech, UNITED SIKHS, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil  Rights and Urban Affairs, Whistleblowers of America, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Police Spouses for Change. 

“The Fairfax County NAACP is encouraged by the steps a Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement would bring. Accountability and transparency have long been absent in many of our institutions and must be established if we are to have trust in those responsible for our public safety. The data this collects, and the justice this can bring, will help shape policy to further advance criminal justice reform down the line. We look forward to the developments of this legislation, and to work in partnership with our members, community supporters, elected officials, and state and national NAACP Chapters.” – Karen Camplin, President of the Fairfax County NAACP

“The concept of a Special Inspector General for Federal Law Enforcement is a forward thinking and much needed institution.  Including the provision for review of cases referred from state and local law enforcement agencies is an important part of the organization’s authority and responsibility.  Law enforcement agencies at every level have a vital role to protect and serve and assist in the preservation of the democratic principles of our nation.  As these agencies are imbued with special and unique authority and power, it is critical that an independent organization exercise oversight responsibilities as a guardrail, ensuring that standards are maintained and adhered to in an equitable and unbiased manner.  The Prince William NAACP Branch welcomes and endorses this groundbreaking legislation and looks forward to working with our state and national NAACP Chapters.” – Cozy Bailey, President of the Prince William County NAACP

“This bill is the weathervane whether Congress is serious about enforcing the laws already on the books against police abuse. It also would be a breakthrough for freedom of speech, because its shield is not limited to law enforcement officers. The bill is a breakthrough, because it extends best practice rights against any retaliation to all who blow the whistle against police illegality, including citizen witnesses, victims, NGO’s, corporations or any source of evidence against police illegality.”  - Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project Legal Director

“If Congress passes this bill, honest police officers will be encouraged to come forward and expose corruption. That way they can defend the public against crooked cops without risking their professional careers, or their lives as in my case.”  - Frank Serpico, retired NYPD detective and whistleblower. 

A complete list of quotes from endorsing organizations is available here.

Text of the legislation is available here.

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