In a blistering letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, four members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights demanded action on skyrocketing crime rates in America’s cities. The letter asks Garland to direct the Department of Justice to investigate the causes of the increase in crime, and to direct U.S. Attorneys to escalate their federal prosecutions. “It is particularly important,” they wrote, “that U.S. Attorneys increase prosecutions in cities where local prosecutors have declared their reluctance to prosecute crime.“
The letter, copied to all 50 state attorneys general, was signed by the four non-Democrat members of the Commission—Peter Kirsanow, J. Christian Adams, Gail Heriot, and Stephen Gilchrist. Currently, eight of the nine commissioner positions are filled, with the vice-chair position vacant. Four are listed with Democratic political affiliations, three as Republican, and one as an Independent. The letter notes that rising violent crime and property crime disproportionately affect citizens in the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and should warrant civil rights concerns.
It says, in part:
We are concerned. Americans in general are concerned. But too many of our elites seem not to be concerned. Perhaps insulated from the destruction of crime, they may be apathetic about the plight of their fellow citizens or mistakenly believe that the police are a greater threat to minority communities than are criminals. Even some of our colleagues at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approach the increase in crime with similar sentiments, despite their leadership in a federal agency whose mission is “to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.”
The letter is extensively footnoted and is worth reading just for the reference material cited. It paints a damning picture of skyrocketing crime in communities where prosecutors fail to do their jobs, based on ideological views about the criminal justice system.
The Commission states its mission on its website:
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Since then, Congress has reauthorized or extended the legislation creating the Commission several times; the last reauthorization was in 1994 by the Civil Rights Commission Amendments Act of 1994.
Established as an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency, our mission is to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws. We pursue this mission by studying alleged deprivations of voting rights and alleged discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice. We play a vital role in advancing civil rights through objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.
Our commissioners, national and regional office staff of civil rights analysts, social scientists, attorneys, administrative personnel, and our volunteer advisory committee members execute our mission in a number of ways. Among them are:
- holding public briefings, issuing press releases, making information publicly available on our Web site, and providing a complaint referral service to promote greater public awareness of civil rights issues, protections and enforcement;
- conducting hearings on critically important civil rights issues, including issuing subpoenas for the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses;
- publishing significant studies and reports on a wide range of the civil rights issues, that typically include findings and recommendations, to inform and advise policy-makers; and
- sustaining advisory committee involvement in national program planning to strengthen fact-finding by broadening the scope of the research to include state and local perspectives and data.
The four signatories of the letter to Garland chastised those members of the commission who refuse to examine the issue of rising crime in minority communities. Extensively citing FBI statistics on crime rates for 2019-2021, they write that the other commissioners refuse to acknowledge the significance of the numbers or blame the previous presidential administration for the rise in crime. The clear implication is that the rising crime rates don’t fit the accepted agenda for the Democratic members of the Commission. A footnote reads, with emphasis added:
Both political appointees and staff members of the Commission have refused to study the increase in crime. Initially, some staff members engaged in the negotiations over topic selection suggested that studying this issue is somehow anti-black. But we note that a recent poll of Minnesotans (with a special emphasis on Minneapolis African Americans) indicates African Americans are likely more concerned about rising crime than whites, not less. When asked “Do you think Minneapolis should or should not reduce the size of its police force?” 75% of African Americans answered, “should not” and 14% answered, “should.” By contrast, 51% of whites answered, “should not” and 33% answered, “should.” African Americans were also more decisive than whites with only 11% “not sure” compared to 16% of whites who were “not sure.” Political appointees—our fellow commissioners and their special assistants—have also refused to study this increase and have even stonewalled our attempts to merely write a letter asking you to address these issues. In regards to the letter, Chair Cantú stated that “we Commissioners disagree about the implications of the FBI data cited,” and Commissioner Yaki attributed the crime increase to “the role model set by executives in the—in the Oval Office with regard to the respect for the rule of law” and thus refused to discuss the letter.
They go on to call out the lame excuses trotted out for the increase in crime, and reiterate the point that soft-on-crime policies, defunding the police, and a general refusal to prosecute should cause the Department of Justice to investigate the civil rights implications:
Ineffective governments unable to police and prosecute crime cause these citizens to become essentially prisoners in their own communities: Too many of our children don’t play in neighborhood public parks because crime has overtaken them; too many neighborhood schools serve as “pipelines to mediocrity” instead of institutions of learning; too many emergency services become inaccessible when residents are in constant fear.
We cannot predict how far this destruction by criminal violence will go. But the notion that the increase is an entirely COVID-19-related one seems disproven by European statistics on crime. So what is the cause?
Is the increase caused by local prosecutors throughout the country whose sole aim is “to obstruct prosecution itself”? Or is it caused by irresponsible state governments that institute criminal justice reform packages that make it difficult, if not impossible, for judges to detain violent and career criminals?
It remains unclear if, or how, Merrick Garland will respond, especially given reports that he has politicized the Department of Justice.
You can read the full letter here: