The Justice Department recently announced in a memo that it will review the enforcement of civil rights protections in grants to law enforcement agencies as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat systemic racism.
The memo, written by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, said the review will make sure that federal funds are not distributed to law enforcement agencies that “engage in discrimination” in order to enforce civil rights laws.
According to the New York Times, the review could determine which agencies receive federal grants, or could influence the courts to make grant funding conditional on recipients changing their policies or procedures.
By adding conditions to grants and by maintaining civil rights protections in federal funding, the DOJ hopes to promote good behavior in law enforcement agencies.
Gupta said that the purpose of the review is to ensure that civil rights laws are protected in federal grant programs.
“The Civil Rights Act’s Title VI guarantees equal opportunity and full participation in federally-funded programs,” Gupta said. “By launching a departmentwide initiative to enhance our administration of these laws, we will help ensure that grant recipients provide that opportunity.”
Gupta cited two laws — Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 — that prohibit racial discrimination in law enforcement agencies that receive federal funds.
The laws are “critical tools in achieving the government’s obligation to ensure that public funds are not being used to finance illegal discrimination,” Gupta wrote.
The Times found that approximately $4.5 billion in federal funding goes to police departments, courts and correctional facilities, in addition to victim services groups, research organizations and nonprofits.
All of these organizations — not just police departments — could be affected by the review as the Biden administration makes civil rights enforcement a priority.
The review could further change how organizations receive grant money and how the government oversees federal funding in general.
The DOJ, meanwhile, has requested a budget increase to $7 billion for the next fiscal year, which leaves a lot of money at stake for law enforcement agencies undergoing this review.
As part of the review, the Justice Department’s grant distributors will examine its criteria for conducting compliance reviews, and opening or closing complaint investigations.
They will also recommend ways to strengthen data collection and reporting efforts by grant recipients, and will find ways to coordinate the work of grant distributors and those who enforce the law, as well as adding conditions in grants.