As fires from overnight riots in Baltimore still burn, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s considering calling on the U.S. Justice Department to review all cases where minorities die at the hands of police. Grassley, a Republican, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he says all options are on the table as these cases appear to become more frequent, with very violent public reactions.
“We’re in the early stages of looking at what the committee can or should do, perhaps it’s a hearing, perhaps it could be legislation or it could be nothing. We just don’t know yet,” Grassley says. “I think we need to be very judicious in any response.” Starting with the Ferguson, Missouri, case last summer, there have been multiple, high-profile incidents in recent months in many states, including New York, Maryland and South Carolina, where lethal force was used by law officers against minorities.
Grassley says he’s not sure about any of the options as possible solutions. “There have been many suggestions, including one by my friend, Senator (Tim) Scott of South Carolina, who is a minority, that would require the federal Justice Department to review any deaths of minorities by law enforcement.” The latest case involves 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore.
Gray died earlier this month while in police custody, and his funeral Monday sparked riots that culminated overnight with dozens of large fires, more than 200 arrests and at least seven police officers injured. “People have every right to protest peacefully, but the looting and unrest only shows disrespect for Baltimore and disrespect for Mr. Gray’s family,” Grassley says.
As the law now stands, the Justice Department can involve itself in instances where it’s believed federal laws may have been violated, but an investigation is not mandatory in all cases involving police-involved minority deaths.