Attorney General Bill Barr announced the creation Wednesday of a Justice Department commission that will study mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse and other issues that affect the ability of law enforcement to reduce crime in communities.
The effort – called the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice – follows an executive order from President Trump in October that directed the attorney general to establish such a commission to look into issues affecting law enforcement. The Justice Department said it will explore “modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime.”
“A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty,” Barr said in a statement. “But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities.”
The commission will study a variety of challenges facing law enforcement, including mental illness, homelessness, and substance abuse. Police recruitment, hiring, training and retention of officers will also be key subjects for the commission. Department of Justice officials say this is the first commission of its kind since then-President Lyndon B Johnson launched a similar effort in 1967.
“Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation,” Barr said.
The attorney general also said the commission will look at ways to promote respect for law enforcement officials and more trust between the public and the officials policing them.
“It’s particularly alarming that, last year, more officers died by suicide than any year previously recorded," he said. "In fact, more officers died by suicide than in the line of duty last year.”
The commissioners, appointed by the attorney general and announced Wednesday, are urban police chiefs, state prosecutors, county sheriffs, members of rural law enforcement, federal agents, U.S. Attorneys, and a state attorney general.
The commission will meet monthly for the next year and then report its findings to the attorney general, who will submit a final report and recommendations to Trump by October.