FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 18, 2021
Government Accountability Project, Joined By 170 Advocacy Organizations and 30 Law Enforcement Officers, Calls Upon Congress to Strengthen Police Accountability Whistleblower Protections
WASHINGTON—Today, Government Accountability Project, alongside 170 advocacy organizations and 30 law enforcement officers, calls upon Congress to include best practice whistleblower and anti-retaliation rights in any upcoming police reform legislation for officers, employees, and citizen victims and witnesses who report law enforcement misconduct.
Events over the last few years have laid bare incontrovertible, and intolerable, systemic racism in law enforcement and the need for systematic changes to law enforcement in this country.
Video footage has led to a national reckoning, but it takes more than a smartphone to protect and defend victims of police brutality. As evident in Derek Chauvin’s trial, in many cases it requires testimony from those who bear witness to wrongdoing. Unfortunately, oftentimes the only witnesses are fellow officers. By breaking through the “Blue Wall of Silence,” police whistleblowers can promote accountability and transparency over a system that has largely operated unchecked in regard to the communities they are tasked with serving.
Through a commitment to truth, individuals who report law enforcement misconduct can make a difference in enforcing police reform, including turning citizen rights into reality for major safeguards such as:
- the ban on chokeholds,
- controls on other deadly force,
- expanded liability,
- pattern and practice investigations,
- oversight of mandatory body cameras,
- restrictions on No Knock warrants,
- controls on transfer of military equipment to state and local police
- open and transparent forensic crime laboratory operations, and
- accurate and complete records for a national registry.
While whistleblowers and anti-retaliation rights are only one critical reform needed to prevent and address police misconduct, they are an essential prerequisite. Individuals who witness law enforcement misconduct are uniquely positioned to expose the systemic and individual abuses of power and misconduct, especially those that have plagued communities of color. The need for accountability and enforceability is why Congress has included whistleblower protection in over 60 federal remedial laws in the past, and now the same standards must be applied in all policing reform legislations for those reforms to be credible.
Government Accountability Project’s Legal Director Tom Devine said:
Most whistleblowers put their jobs on the line to defend against abuses of the public’s trust. Law enforcement whistleblowers oftentimes risk both their livelihoods and their lives. And they do so in a legal system that largely punishes, rather than praises, their testimony. Without a safe channel for officers to speak up against abuse, backed up by best practice anti-retaliation protections, enforcing new controls on police conduct will be a magnet for cynicism. Sometimes the best or only witness is an honest law enforcement officer willing to speak truth to power. Protect them so they will.
Government Accountability Project’s Senior Counsel Dana Gold said:
The call for anti-retaliation protections for those who blow the whistle on law enforcement misconduct and abuse from so many diverse groups, and from officers themselves, reflects widespread recognition of two key points. First, that whistleblowers are essential to accountability and need protection from retaliation when they come forward. Second, that the systemic racism that fosters police brutality has already cost too many lives, so any tool that can help expose and prevent misconduct should be added to law enforcement reform bills. Providing whistleblower protections to those who witness and report misconduct is one of those tools, and it warrants strong, bipartisan support.
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.