A move toward national police?

A move toward national police?

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Police in several U.S. cities have visions of a federal power grab to create a national police force.

The Fraternal Order of Police has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., challenging the policy of the Justice Department of using consent decrees to seize control of local police departments.

The suit names former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and the United States as defendants. The action states the Justice Department already has begun actions to take over police departments in Pittsburgh, Steubenville, Ohio and Columbus, Ohio.

The president of the FOP, Gilbert Gallegos, commented: “We do not believe that the Department of Justice has the power to take control of state and local departments when there is no allegation that the department itself has actively engaged in civil rights abuses.”

Writer Kathleen Keating, in a piece for a website called The Strategic Jungle Syndicate, said the Justice Department also is considering lawsuits against police departments in Buffalo, N.Y., Charleston, W. Va., East Pointe, Mich., Los Angeles, Calif., New Orleans, La., New York City, N.Y., Orange

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County, Fla., Prince George County, Md., Riverside, Calif., and Washington, D.C.

Gallegos said: “This so-called ‘enforcement strategy’ at the Department of Justice is unconstitutional, plain and simple. It strips the local department of the ability to set rules regarding police training, policy and discipline.”

Exclusion of local police officers from debates over reform of existing laws and regulations also is challenged by the suit. In many cases, such a practice would be in direct violation of collective bargaining agreements.

“Most police officers in these departments are not accused of misconduct, because no such misconduct was committed,” Gallegos stated. “but all officers are wrongfully tarred by the Justice Department’s allegations of system-wide problems.

“Local officers who have not engaged in any wrongdoing should have a voice in the formulation of new policies and procedures that affect their jobs and careers. Federal takeover of local law enforcement is an extreme measure that should only be undertaken when the local government itself has committed wrongdoing,” he said.

This latest strategy of Attorney General John Ashcroft has been advanced with little fanfare. Should it prevail, law enforcement in this country will be dramatically altered.

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