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Congress and Law Enforcement Reform: Constitutional Authority

CRS report via LC – Congress and Law Enforcement Reform: Constitutional Authority, June 4, 2020: “In May and June 2020, protests erupted nationwide after the publication of video footage of a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, leading to his death. That incident and its aftermath have sparked heightened interest in Congress’s ability to implement reforms of state and local law enforcement. As a companion to this Sidebar outlines in greater detail, congressional power to regulate state and local law enforcement is not without limits. The Constitution grants the federal government only certain enumerated authorities, with the Tenth Amendment reserving all other powers for the states. The regulation of state and municipal law enforcement is an area that the Constitution generally entrusts to the states. However, Congress possesses some authority to legislate on that subject, primarily through statutes designed to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and legislation requiring states to take specified action in exchange for federal funds disbursed under the Spending Clause. This Sidebar provides an overview of existing federal statutes intended to prevent and redress constitutional violations by state and local public safety officials. It then presents some recent proposals that would change federal regulation of state and local law enforcement..”

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