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Top black lawmaker calls for bipartisan House panel to investigate U.S. police shootings

By Doug G. Ware   |   Jan. 14, 2016 at 8:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A top African-American congressman is calling for the formation of a House select committee to investigate some of the police officer-involved shootings that have triggered controversies and mass condemnation in the United States for the better part of two years.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives asking for such a panel, similar to those which have investigated the 2012 attack on the American embassy in Libya and the scandal that enveloped Planned Parenthood last year.

The purpose for the committee, Rush said, would be to take an unbiased view of the cases and develop potential solutions.

Specifically, Rush cited nearly a dozen recent examples of what he called "unjustified" instances in which black Americans were killed by an officer of the law -- including the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

In each case, the deadly shooting took place amid hotly-debated circumstances that have contributed to a growing divide between law enforcement officers and minority communities in the United States.

House Resolution 589 was introduced by Rush and several other black lawmakers, including Reps. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., Henry Johnson, D-Ga., Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., Lacy Clay, D-Mo., John Lewis, D-Ga., Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Gwendolynne Moore, D-Wisc.

"This past year alone we have seen 7 different incidents of the unjustified use of lethal and 6 excessive force by police officers against African Americans," the resolution states. "These incidents and countless others are not isolated but reflect a pervasive pattern of racial bias in the use of excessive force in communities of color."

Rush's resolution also cites numerous incidents over the last five years involving the Chicago Police Department.

"From 2011 to 2015, 28,500 complaints filed against Chicago Police officers resulted in no discipline," the resolution notes.

Many of the resolution's co-sponsors represent constituents in states where some of the controversial shootings occurred.

According to the proposal, the select committee will consist of 12 members -- six Democrats and six Republicans -- although it didn't specify exactly who would comprise the panel. The House speaker and minority leader would each appoint one member for senior positions on the committee, though.

The panel would investigate the incidents and make recommendations to Congress within two months after its creation -- including a clear-cut legal definition of what constitutes "excessive use of force" and a national database searchable by the general public regarding prior complaints against law enforcement officers.

The committee would also mandate that U.S. law enforcement agencies report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation all officer-involved shootings that are deemed "justifiable" -- and provide additional training to officers.

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