Special to The Dallas Examiner
Recently, the Department of Justice released its Equity Action Plan, in accordance with President Biden’s executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The Equity Action Plan would build on the department’s mission by utilizing resources across the department to advance equity for underserved communities nationwide and focus on prioritizing equity and increasing opportunity in five key areas: federal financial assistance, access to grants, language access, stakeholder engagement, and contracting and procurement.
Underserved communities, especially communities of color, experience higher rates of violent crime, especially hate crimes and gun violence, which have devastating effects on victims, their families, and their communities. Such violence affects Black youth, men, and women and other communities of color at disproportionate rates, and is highest in racially segregated, high poverty neighborhoods. The Department has dedicated substantial resources to combating violent crime and gun violence through both vigorous law enforcement efforts and significant investments in evidence-based community programs, such as community-based violence intervention, that can help disrupt violence and strengthen communities. The Equity Action Plan will use cross-departmental resources to aid communities that have experienced inequity, disparity, grief, and adversity, often attributed to violent crime.
“Improving access to Justice Department programs and services is critical to ensuring equal justice under law and promoting public safety. The department’s Equity Action Plan is designed to increase equity, opportunity, and resources to our most vulnerable communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
In order to address the key areas established in the Equity Action Plan, the Department has identified the following action items:
- Leverage federal funds provided by the Department to (a) encourage grantees to include equity considerations in the provision of federally funded services, (b) enhance data collection to identify and take action to address disparities in access to the Department’s programs or services based on demographic factors, and (c) better ensure that grantees are complying with non-discrimination mandates.
- Improve access to funding opportunities for organizations that are led by, or primarily serve, historically marginalized and underserved populations.
- Reduce language barriers that make it difficult for individuals with limited English proficiency to access Department programs or activities, communicate public safety concerns, or vindicate their rights.
- Improve the Department’s engagement with stakeholders in underserved communities and disadvantaged groups in order to establish enduring relationships with them and enhance the public’s awareness of the Department’s expansive mission and resources.
- Increase opportunities for small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones to secure Department contracts.
Since Jan. 20, 2021, the department has taken many steps to advance equity for marginalized communities, including by combating hate crimes and hate incidents, revitalizing the Community Relations Service, re-establishing the Office for Access to Justice, ensuring non-discrimination in federal grants, expanding language access, and reforming law enforcement practices.
In addition, the Justice Department submitted to the Federal Register the “Frame or Receiver” Final Rule on Monday, which modernizes the definition of a firearm. Once implemented, this rule will clarify that parts kits that are readily convertible to firearms are subject to the same regulations as traditional firearms. These regulatory updates will help curb the proliferation of “ghost guns,” which are often assembled from kits, do not contain serial numbers, and are sold without background checks, making them difficult to trace and easy to acquire by criminals.
On March 13, the Justice Department announced that it had reached an agreement to settle claims in four civil cases arising from the June 1, 2020, law enforcement response to racial justice demonstrations in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. As part of the settlement, the United States Park Police and the United States Secret Service agreed to update and clarify their policies governing demonstrations, and to implement the policy changes within 30 days of today’s settlement. Within the 30 days, the USSS will amend its policies to provide that the fact that some demonstrators have engaged in unlawful conduct does not ordinarily provide blanket grounds for use of force, crowd dispersal or declaration of unlawful assembly.