Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Passage of H.R. 1447, the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013

Today Senators have finally come together to pass the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which will provide important transparency to law enforcement efforts and our prison system.  At a time when our Nation is having an important conversation about police encounters that result in the loss of life, we know that hundreds of police-related deaths are unaccounted for in federal statistics.  The Death in Custody Reporting Act will require that state and Federal law enforcement officials report deaths in their custody, including those that occur during arrest.  The Justice Department will then have the opportunity to analyze the data and see what we can learn from it.  The American people deserve as much. 

Too many communities across our country are losing faith in our justice system.  This bill provides a step toward accountability, and it is my hope that it may ultimately lead to restoring some measure of trust in these communities.  If we are ever able to truly embody the words engraved in Vermont marble above the United States Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under the Law,” then more of course must be done.  And I look forward to continuing these efforts in the next Congress.

The prior authorization for the Death in Custody Reporting Act expired in 2006, and after too many years of inaction, I am glad that Democrats and Republicans have come together and sent this reauthorization bill to the President for signature.  My appreciation goes to Congressman Bobby Scott, who sponsored and has long championed this legislation, as well Senator Richard Blumenthal, who sponsored a Senate version.

This has been an important week for transparency.  On Monday, the Senate came together to pass my bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act and I hope the House will soon take up this bill. And on Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Both of these actions did not come easily, but in both instances the interests of the American public and our values as a democracy prevailed.  Today, we have again come together in the interest of transparency for the betterment of our Nation. 

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