With only weeks left in office President Barack Obama signed the “Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016,” expanding the responsibilities of the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate and prosecute criminal civil rights violations that occurred before 1980 and resulted in a death. Read a summary of the bill from the Congressional Research Service below.
Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016
(Sec. 2) This bill reauthorizes the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 (Emmett Till Act) and expands the responsibilities of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to include the investigation and prosecution of criminal civil rights statutes violations that occurred before 1980 and resulted in a death. (Currently, Emmett Till Act investigations are limited to violations that occurred before 1970.)
The bill expresses the sense of Congress that all authorities with jurisdiction should: (1) meet regularly with civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education, and DOJ-designated entities to coordinate information sharing and discuss the status of DOJ's Emmett Till Act work; (2) support the full accounting of all victims whose deaths or disappearances were the result of racially motivated crimes; (3) hold accountable under federal and state law individuals who were perpetrators of, or accomplices in, unsolved civil rights murders and disappearances; (4) keep families regularly informed about the status of the investigations; and (5) expeditiously comply with Freedom of Information Act requests and develop a singular, publicly accessible repository of these disclosed documents.
In investigating a complaint, DOJ may coordinate activities with entities that DOJ determines to be appropriate.
DOJ may reopen and review cases closed without an in-person investigation conducted by DOJ or the FBI.
DOJ must hold meetings with the Civil Rights Division, the FBI, the Community Relations Service, civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education, DOJ-designated entities, and state and local law enforcement to discuss the status of its Emmett Till Act work.
In an annual report to Congress, DOJ must indicate:
- the number of cases referred by a civil rights organization, an institution of higher education, or a state or local law enforcement agency;
- the number of such cases that resulted in federal charges;
- the date any such charges were filed;
- whether DOJ has declined to prosecute or participate in an investigation of a referred case;
- the outreach, collaboration, and support for investigations and prosecutions of violations of criminal civil rights statutes, including murders and disappearances; and
- any activity on reopened cases.
The Community Relations Service must provide technical assistance by bringing together law enforcement agencies and communities to address tensions raised by civil rights era crimes.