Press Release

Welch Joins Bicameral Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act to Strengthen Accountability and Combat Discriminatory Police Practices 

May 30, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cosponsored the bicameral Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act, legislation reintroduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), to strengthen the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) and state governments’ ability to hold police and other officials accountable for discriminatory practices. 

“Systemic racism has plagued America’s police departments for decades. Ending this pattern of unjust discrimination and establishing a path to fair policing begins with meaningful reforms and stronger accountability measures for law enforcement engaging in unlawful practices,” said Senator Welch. “This bill works to address systemic racism in policing by strengthening federal and state governments’ power to investigate and hold police departments suspected of exercising discriminatory behavior accountable.” 

“Police departments shouldn’t get away with chokeholds, unconstitutional searches, or killing unarmed teenagers. Our criminal justice system is broken – fixing it starts with holding police officers and departments accountable for discriminatory practices and ensuring thorough civil rights investigations are happening, free of conflicts of interest,” said Senator Warren.   

“Regardless of your zip code, race, ethnicity, or background, we all want safe communities. I’m proud to introduce and lead the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act to ensure that all people are properly served, protected, and respected,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland.   

After Michael Brown was tragically shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in 2014, President Obama’s DOJ launched a civil rights investigation, which concluded that the Ferguson Police Department (PD) had a history of engaging in unlawful and discriminatory practices. The investigation resulted in a consent decree, a legally enforceable reform agreement between the federal government and the Ferguson PD, requiring Ferguson PD to establish stronger restrictions on the use of force by officers.   

During the Trump administration, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions severely limited the DOJ’s ability to use consent decrees and other tools to push police departments to address unconstitutional behavior. This bill seeks to prevent future harmful attacks on civil rights investigations and remedies by giving state governments the tools necessary to act when the DOJ does not. 

The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024 would:  

  • Empower state attorneys general to pursue pattern-or-practice investigations, providing a critical backstop if the DOJ fails to act, and create a grant program — with robust monitoring and accountability for how grant funds are used — to assist states in pursuing investigations and consent decrees. 
  • Increase funding for the DOJ Civil Rights Division by dedicating $445 million per year for the next 10 years, including for the Division and states to pursue these investigations into police departments, prosecutors’ offices, judges, and certain other government offices with a history of engaging in unconstitutional and discriminatory practices. 
  • Encourage the DOJ to look beyond traditional law enforcement mechanisms when fashioning remedies with police departments, and consider reform mechanisms like mental health support, civilian oversight bodies, and community-based restorative justice programs. 
  • Prevent conflicts of interest in pattern-or-practice investigations by barring certain officials from being designated to bring federal actions for pattern-or-practice violations if there would be a conflict of interest. 

In addition to Senators Warren and Welch, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024 is endorsed by the ACLU, NAACP, National Urban League, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Color of Change, Public Rights Project, National Action Network, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.  

“The issue of police violence in Black communities across the country has been exacerbated by the struggle victims of police violence experience in obtaining justice. This country is in dire need of measures that seek to ensure that law enforcement agencies with racially discriminatory policing practices are being held accountable. The Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act is an important first step towards holding these agencies accountable by ensuring that impacted communities are a part of the oversight process and encouraging states to implement law enforcement reforms and pursue investigations of police departments who engage in discriminatory policing practices,” said Zha’Mari Hurley, Associate Policy Counsel, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Learn more about the Enhancing Oversight to End Discrimination in Policing Act of 2024

Read and download the full text of the bill.