May 15, 2019 / 12:28 AM / 12 days ago

House Democrats probe Justice Department's handling of police shootings

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) listens to testimony during a mark up hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unveiled a probe of the Trump administration’s moves to curtail the federal government’s role in scrutinizing police shootings.

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other committee Democrats requested documents and updates on how the Justice Department has addressed shootings and other cases of excessive police force since President Donald Trump took office in early 2017.

The lawmakers cited statistics, including media reports, that show nearly 1,000 people were shot and killed by police in 2018 and that at least 265 others have met with the same fate this year. The numbers include cases of unarmed shooting victims that have drawn international criticism.

“Despite continuing concerns from civil rights and community-based organizations, the department has sharply curtailed its statutory role in identifying and eradicating civil rights abuses by law enforcement,” the lawmakers’ letter said. Justice Department officials were not immediately available to comment.

Among the documents sought by the Democratic lawmakers are memos written by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who implemented policies that critics say sharply curtailed the ability of Justice Department civil rights attorneys to rein in unconstitutional policing.

The lawmakers gave Barr until June 5 to comply with their request.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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