In a move that could broaden the Joe Biden administration’s efforts to combat systemic racism in policing, prisons and courts, the Justice Department has announced a 90-day review that will examine whether it was doing enough to ensure that federal funds were not distributed to law enforcement organizations that engage in discrimination, reports the New York Times. The results of the review could allow the department to re-evaluate which groups receive federal grants or to ask the courts to require recipients to change their policies or procedures in order to continue receiving the funds.
The distribution of funds is a powerful motivator that the Justice Department can use to promote good behavior among police forces. While grant recipients can lose their funding if they violate Title VI, which requires that taxpayer money not be spent in ways that result in racial discrimination, such a move would be a last resort. Reducing funding could endanger communities because the money often pays for community policing programs and juvenile crime diversion efforts. But, as a condition of taking federal funding, grant recipients could also be subject to court orders to end discriminatory procedures. In the review, the Justice Department’s grant distributors will examine its criteria for conducting compliance reviews and opening or closing complaint investigations; recommend improvements to strengthen data collection and reporting efforts by grant recipients; find ways to coordinate the work of grant distributors and those who enforce the law; and review the conditions in grants and the department’s procedures to address noncompliance.