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07/30/2020 | Justice Transformation

Letter to Speaker Pelosi from Center for Popular Democracy, et al.

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

The undersigned grassroots, racial justice, and advocacy organizations, part of The People’s Coalition for Safety & Freedom committed to dismantling and replacing the harmful provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill, write again to note our grave concerns regarding Congress’ response to the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and police violence have wrought upon our communities.

In a previous letter to Congress last month, we laid out the harms of the Community Oriented Policing Services Program (“COPS Office”) over the last 25 years and questioned the moral and economic utility of Congress continuing to authorize federal funding for policing in this extraordinarily challenging moment.1

Our concerns and demands have only accelerated since. We have continued to witness the brutalization of community residents and protestors at the hands of heavily militarized local—and now federal—law enforcement, while no further economic relief has made its way to people and the virus continues to ravage our communities with no end in sight.2

Despite this reality, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science has disturbingly recommended, and the House is now considering authorizing potentially billions of dollars for policing, including $343 Million for the COPS Office and hundreds of millions of dollars through the Byrne JAG program.3 This appropriation is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and local law enforcement funding contained in the Department of Homeland Security budget also being contemplated this week.4

As Congress negotiates and passes its annual appropriations and next iteration of the COVID-19 recovery package, we urge you—yet again—to reverse course and stop fueling our nation’s policing, criminalization, and incarceration crises through funding allocations.

We demand that Congress: cease federal funding of local law enforcement and to restrict this dangerous administration, including its Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, from further deployment of federal agents in cities across the nation.

Specifically we are calling on Congress, through this appropriations period, to:

  1. End the Community Oriented Policing Services Office that currently is used to hire, retain, and train local and state law enforcement, perpetuate the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline, and fund Operation Relentless Pursuit
  2. End federal funding for state and local enforcement hiring, training and equipment through the Byrne JAG Program
  3. End any programs for federal funding for law enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security Budget, including State Homeland Security Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, and Operation Stonegarden
  4. End the 1033 Military Transfer program
  5. Pass Reps. Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Liu’s Amendments to H.R. 7617 that would begin to reign in the harms of the COPS Office.5 We note our disappointment in the Rules Committee not advancing Rep. Pressley’s sensible amendment to shift COPS Office money allocated for hiring more police towards supporting young people.

In our previous correspondence, we laid out how damaging the COPS Hiring Program in particular has been on Black communities specifically: flooding our streets with upwards of 100,000 new police officers6—which has served to only increase the incidents of police brutality; accelerating and maintaining the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline by saturating schools with police officers; and putting budgetary pressures on local governments that result in the under-resourcing of housing, education, and other basic needs.

On top of these devastating impacts of the COPS Office, we note that Attorney General Bill Barr recently announced his new ‘Operation LeGend,’ which is a nearly identical initiative to ‘Operation Relentless Pursuit’ (funded by the COPS Office and one we previously condemned and brought to your attention).7 Both operations, as well as President Trump’s unconstitutional use of Customs and Border Patrol deployment, represent brazen attempts by the administration to flood our cities with militarized federal law enforcement agents, intimidate and suppress protest, and further occupy neighborhoods with policing and paramilitary forces.8 We are deeply concerned about the likelihood that Trump and Barr will utilize these programs to not only escalate violent crack down on protected protest, but to intimidate and suppress the vote in the November election.

The events in Portland and the threats being levied towards other U.S. cities have made clear the true intent of these federal initiatives: t o quiet opposition and stifle democracy itself. Congress must restrict Trump and Barr’s ability and resources for these types of dangerous programs—and can do so in part by defunding the COPS Program and other programs under the Department of Homeland Security.

Moreover, it would be unconscionable for Congress to ignore and ultimately reject the central tenet of the largest social movement in U.S. history if it were to now send hundreds of millions of dollars to reinforce police budgets, police power, and police departments’ violent behavior. Indeed, in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, cities have risen up to meet the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. Minneapolis’ City Council has voted to dismantle its police department and build a whole new public safety apparatus9. The Los Angeles City Council voted to cut their police department by $150 million in response to city residents’ demand.10 Seattle has passed resolutions indicating they seek to cut its police department’s budget by 50%.11 Were Congress to continue funding policing, particularly at the levels it is considered this appropriations period, it would represent a staggering and unforgiveable undermining of this social justice movement and the needs of communities nationwide.

Instead, Congress should focus its attention on fully funding and extending critical initiatives such as unemployment insurance, rental assistance, resources for COVID-19 testing, state and local financial support, community public safety alternatives, and preparations for a safe return to school for our children. Sending massive resources to already bloated local police forces or to Trump and Barr’s handpicked paramilitary forces at this moment, would be disastrous for public safety, public health, and for our democracy. We implore you to act accordingly.



Center for Popular Democracy
PolicyLink Equity Action Network
Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE)
Detroit Action
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Rights & Democracy (NH & VT)
Maryland Communities United (Baltimore, MD)
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (Milwaukee, WI)
Law for Black Lives
Flint Rising (MI)
New Florida Majority
The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
BYP100 Action Fund
JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA)



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Chair José E. Serrano, House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Vice Chair Patrick Leahy, Senate Committee on Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey, House Committee on Appropriations
Chairman Jerry Moran, Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Chairman Richard Shelby, Senate Committee on Appropriations
Ranking Member Robert Aderholt, House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies



1 Letter to House Judiciary Committee, (June 9, 2020), https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20Letter%20to%20Congress%20--%20COPS%2 0program.pdf
2 Christian Davenport, Gregory Scuggs, Protests Explode Across The Country; Police Declare Riots in Seattle, Portland, The Washington Post (Jul. 26, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/25/seattle-police-declare-riot-renewed-black-lives-ma tter-protests/
3 Fact Sheet: Supporting Police Reform In The Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations Bills, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations (Jul. 17, 2020), https://appropriations.house.gov/news/fact-sheets/supporting-police-reform.
4 Budget-In-Brief Fiscal Year 2021, Department of Homeland Security (Feb. 10, 2020), https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/fy_2021_dhs_bib_web_version.pdf.
5 Committee on Rules, United States House of Representatives, H.R. 7617 - Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021, https://rules.house.gov/bill/116/hr-7617
6 Press Release, President Clinton Announces New Crime Brill Grants to put Police Officers on the Beat, DOJ (Oct. 12, 1994), https://www.justice.gov/archive/opa/pr/Pre_96/October94/590.txt.html
7 Press Release, Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Launch of Operation Legend, DOJ (Jul. 8, 2020),
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-william-p-barr-announces-launch-operation-legend. 8 Andrew Selsky, Gillian Flaccus, Mayor of Portland to Trump: Get your troops out of our city, The Associated Press (July 18, 2020), https://apnews.com/95ed013d58a00db0d85ddfd14ab51d2c
9 Tommy Beer, Minneapolis City Council Unanimously Votes To Replace Police With Community-Led Model, Forbes (June 12, 2020)
https://www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/06/12/minneapolis-city-council-unanimously-votes-to-repla ce-police-with-community-led-model/#3e1254ac71a5
10 Los Angeles City Council votes to slash LAPD budget by $150 million, CBS News (July 1 2020), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/los-angeles-city-council-votes-to-slash-lapd-budget-by-150-million/
11 Daniel Beekman, Majority of Seattle council pledges to support Police Department defunding plan laid out by advocates, The Seattle Times (July 9 2020), https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/majority-of-seattle-council-pledges-to-support-police-d epartment-defunding-plan-laid-out-by-advocates/