Three members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte on Thursday asking him to hold hearings on a series of issues related to local law enforcement in the wake of the controversial police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri this week. In their letter, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) said the situation in Ferguson raised the question of whether “local law enforcement is out of control.”
“For five days the citizens of Ferguson have protested the killing of an unarmed teenager by local police. Last night, law enforcement broke up the protest with brutal force: confronting demonstrators in riot gear and armoured vehicles, arresting journalists, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds,” the congressmen wrote. “These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens and hinder the ability of the press to report on their actions.”
Conyers, Scott, and Cohen cited three isusues they said were highlighted by the situation in Ferguson.
Firstly, they said the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday, which started the protests, was part of “a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African Americans.” Secondly, they pointed to what they described as a “series of troubling arrests in Ferguson.” Specifically, the congressmen pointed to the arrests of two reporters and an alderman from St. Louis, Missouri on Wednesday evening. However, in addition to these three specific incidents, they cited reports they described as having raised “questions about the legitimacy of all arrests made during the course of these protests. Lastly, the congressman said Ferguson has highlighted the need to “address the extensive militarization of state and local police.”
“The use of overwhelming force by police against unarmed citizens requires our urgent attention,” the congressmen wrote. “It is imperative the Committee convene to examine these issues as soon as possible.”
Read a full copy of Conyers, Scott, and Cohen’s letter to Goodlatte below.