March 22, 1999
From Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas and Producer Paul Courson
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Janet Reno said Monday she will consider pushing for citizen review panels of police departments suspected of chronic excessive force, and said she has discussed the possibility of withholding federal support to those agencies.
A group of civil rights leaders met with Reno for 90 minutes Monday at the Justice Department. Speaking to reporters afterward, some of them said there's a risk of civil unrest if nothing is done to help eliminate police brutality.
"This issue is crying out for advocates," said Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP, "and we expect advocacy from the White House and the Justice Department."
The meeting came partly in response to the shooting last month in New York of an unarmed West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. Hundreds have staged civil disobedience protests outside New York City Police headquarters in the last 10 days.
Longtime civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson called it part of "a growing permissiveness of violence toward African-American and Latino people ... a kind of cultural permissiveness."
Also representing the Justice Department were Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, Associate Attorney General Raymond Fisher, and the acting chief of the civil rights division, Bill Lann Lee.
Mfume said he and others asked Justice officials to help develop a national set of criteria that police departments can use in racial profiling, stop-and-frisk situations and for strip searches.
Hugh Price, president of the National Urban League, said he called on Reno to consider "the use of sanctions against police departments that continually tolerate patterns of brutality and abuse," including "the possible withholding of federal support."
They quoted Reno as saying she agreed with the need to increase the attorney general's visibility on the issue.
Civil rights leader arrested in police brutality protest
NAACP President's Corner: NAACP to join NY protest of Diallo police killing
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