James Cadogan, Department of Justice – Statement at the UPR of the United States

Universal Periodic Review

Opening Statement of James Cadogan
Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General

Civil Rights Division
United States Department of Justice

 Thank you, Mary.  Distinguished President, Members of the Troika, and representatives of the U.N. Member States:  my name is James Cadogan, and I serve as a Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  It is an honor to be a member of the U.S. delegation, and to share some of the work of the Justice Department to address discrimination and to respond to the issues raised by our first UPR.

Since the ratification of our Constitution, the people of the United States have fought to realize the promise of equal opportunity and equal justice enshrined in its text.  Last year, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the landmark law that relegated the age of legal segregation to the history books.  This summer, we will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – two of our most important civil rights laws.

But, just as we celebrate the great advances we have made, we must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise. Nowhere is the importance of this work more evident than in the realm of police practices.  The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a longstanding and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice: these events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress – through both dialogue and action.

We know that effective, accountable police departments are fundamental to the infrastructure of democracy.  And the vast majority of police officers and police departments work tirelessly to protect the civil and constitutional rights of those they serve.  But, when federal, state, local, or tribal officials willfully use excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution or federal law, we have authority to prosecute them.  In the last six years, we have brought criminal charges against more than 400 law enforcement officials.

Likewise, when systemic problems emerge, we, at the Department of Justice, can – and do –investigate and bring civil actions to change unlawful or discriminatory policing policies. For instance, in February, we released a report finding that the police department of Ferguson, Missouri engaged in a pattern or practice of racially discriminatory policing.  Furthermore, we have opened more than 20 investigations in the last six years – including an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department announced on Friday.  And we are currently enforcing 16 landmark agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies.

We also seek to identify and address potential policing issues before they become systemic problems: in March, the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing released its report with more than 60 recommendations, following a three-month-long public consultation process.  And, just last week, we announced a $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program.

Of course, challenges remain in many other areas – and we are committed to using every legal tool available to fight for expanded opportunity, whether in education, housing, employment, or LGBT rights.  For example, we are committed to community inclusion for people with disabilities: since 2009, the Justice Department has reached agreements with six states to improve the lives of approximately 46,000 individuals with disabilities.

And, we are committed to protecting a secure and equal right to vote Unfortunately, there are still too many Americans whose ability to exercise that most fundamental right is hindered because of their race, color, or language ability.  That is why, despite setbacks dealt by recent Supreme Court decisions, we have brought landmark cases to protect meaningful access to the ballot – challenging racially discriminatory voting laws in North Carolina and Texas.

I’ve described just a portion of the Justice Department’s work advancing the promise of equality written into America’s founding documents.  We are proud to join our fellow agencies, and our state, local, and tribal partners, in the continuing fight to eradicate discrimination and ensure equal justice for all.  With that, I’d like to turn the floor back over to the Chair.  We look forward to hearing your recommendations and your questions.