A senior official of the Department of Justice told the United Nations on Monday that the U.S. could do more to uphold civil rights laws, citing several incidents with police killing unarmed black men.
James Cadogan, a senior counselor in the justice department's civil rights division, told the UN's Human Rights Council that "we must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise," according to the Agence France-Presse.
"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… challenged us to do better and to work harder for progress," he said.
The delegation from the U.S. was meeting for the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record, which all 193 U.N. members must undergo every four years.
The comments come days after the DOJ announced that it would be opening a "patterns and practices" investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. The investigations look into whether specific police departments unnecessarily use excessive force, and if they operate with respect to civil and constitutional rights.
In a speech last Friday announcing the launch of the investigation, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called police-community relations "one of the most challenging issues of our time."
After last summer's unrest following the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by a white police officer in the city of Ferguson, Mo., one of the investigations led to a wave of city officials, including the former police chief, resigning in the city.
Late last week, activists in Los Angeles made calls for a DOJ investigation into the police department there, following the shooting of an unarmed homeless man.
But it's not only activists who are casting doubt on recent officer-involved shootings — even the LAPD's Chief of Police Charlie Beck publicly expressed concern that last week's homeless shooting was justified.
“I don’t know what was in the officer’s mind,” he said in a press conference.
"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," Cadogan told the U.N. in Geneva.
He added that over the last six years, the DOJ has brought criminal charges to over 400 law enforcement officials, the AFP reported.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.