Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), at the Capitol on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

With Bill to Mandate Identifying Info on Officer Uniforms, AOC Says US 'Should Not Have Secret Police'

"If an officer violates their agency's policies, their victim should have the ability to report them to their agency and demand accountability."

Eoin Higgins

Citing increased fears of an authoritarian crackdown, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Eleanor Holmes Norton announced Monday they are introducing a bill this week requiring federal law enforcement officials to wear identification when on duty or serving the public.

Federal agents are expected to head to cities around the country over the next few weeks—a deployment that would follow at least a week of operations in Portland, Oregon as part of what is widely seen as a rollout for a more intense and nationwide effort.

"Unidentified internal security forces are apprehending American citizens, and accounts allege these apprehension processes are more similar to overseas renditions than traditional arrests."
—Irvin McCullough, Government Accountability Project

In June, demonstrators in Washington were cleared from a park near the White House by federal law enforcement officers so President Donald Trump could have a photo op at nearby St. John's Church.

"Secret police snatching Americans off of street corners and shooting rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators is something we would expect to see in an authoritarian state, not outside the White House," Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. "Yet, that is our current reality."

"This bill will increase accountability and oversight for law enforcement," she continued. "Currently, law enforcement can violate an American's First Amendment right with complete anonymity. If an officer violates their agency's policies, their victim should have the ability to report them to their agency and demand accountability."

Ocasio-Cortez and Norton—the congresswoman for the District of Columbia—are expected to introduce the bill (pdf) later in the week. 

As The Nation's Ken Klippenstein, who broke the news of the bill, reported:

The bill would require on-duty federal agents to display not just the name of their agency but also the individual agent's last name and identification number. It would also mandate a new form of oversight for the Justice Department, requiring its inspector general to conduct routine audits to ensure compliance with the legislation. The results of these audits would then be reported to Congress.

"It's absolute insanity that this isn't a basic requirement already," tweeted journalist Adrian Crawford.

Government Accountability Project deputy director of legislation Irvin McCullough told Klippenstein that the lack of accountability is raising concerns as officers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies are increasingly involved in domestic law enforcement.

"Lots of lawyers are asking the same thing: Where's the transparency?" said McCullough. "Unidentified internal security forces are apprehending American citizens, and accounts allege these apprehension processes are more similar to overseas renditions than traditional arrests."

"Citizens deserve to know who's arresting them—or at least what entity—to report any abuses they suffer or witness," McCullough added.

On Monday, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News that he was not going to be constrained by local officials who do not want his agents in their cities, as happened in Portland. 

"I don't need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors to do our job," said Wolf. "We're going to do that, whether they like us there or not."

Attorney Max Kennerly welcomed the Ocasio-Cortez/Norton bill. 

"We do not need nor want anonymous people asserting they have government authorization to use violence, and we do not need nor want a government that evades accountability by acting through anonymous agents," tweeted Kennerly.

 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

TODAY is the last day of our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·


'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo