“This is not an either/or,” Monaco told CNN in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “We have got to do both.”
The department, under President Joe Biden, has doubled down
on investigations into allegations of discriminatory policing after the Trump administration scaled back that work. But the Biden administration has also bolstered the resources the department’s offered law enforcement, with the department making $ 1.6 billion in grants available last year for policing programs
aimed at reducing violent crime.
Monaco, who is the number 2 leader at the department, said Tuesday that public safety is the “top priority.”
“And what we are doing is applying every tool that we can to address the violent crime rise that we’ve seen in this country,” Monaco told CNN. “That means going after and targeting the most violent offenders and working with our state and local law enforcement partners to lock those people up. That means going after gun violence and the illicit trafficking of guns that fuel it.”
The surge in gun violence and homicides in some places has been a political vulnerability for the Biden administration.
In an address to the US Conference of Mayors last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland promised more help for police departments and mayors bearing the brunt of the violent crime increase.
“At the Justice Department, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the fight against violent crime, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect our communities,” Garland said.
Republicans have long seized on the calls by some on the left that police funding be reduced in the face of misconduct. Biden and his leaders at DOJ have repeatedly pushed back on progressives’ proposals to “defund the police.”
“Let’s just be very clear, cutting funding to law enforcement when crime is on the rise does not make sense. That’s a mistake,” Monaco told CNN on Tuesday. She pointed to the 1,000 new police officers the Justice Department has funded at police departments across the country, as well as the budget proposal to Congress for an additional $ 300 million to fund state and local law enforcement.
She called the rise in intentional police killings “absolute tragedy,” as FBI statistics
show the numbers for 2020 to be at record highs.
“What we are doing is trying to support state and local law enforcement in every way we know how,” she said. “That means adding cops to communities, making sure that they’re working in the communities, walking the beat, building trust in the communities that we serve.”
DOJ has placed limits on federal officers’ use of controversial police practices, such as chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
“We’ve got to do both approaches, which is supporting law enforcement targeting the most violent offenders and supporting community-based intervention and prevention programs,” Monaco said.
A focus on what’s ‘fueling’ the violence
Monaco noted the department had set up a task force that’s focused on the illicit tracking of firearms, which she said was “fueling” the violence.
More than two-thirds of the country’s 40 most most populous cities, including Los Angeles and New York saw an increase in homicides in 2021 compared to 2020, a continuation of the troubling increase in homicides that began at the onset of the pandemic, according to a CNN analysis
of over 40 major cities.
“What we’ve seen is that the guns we’re recovering at crime scenes, in violent crimes, haven’t originated in those cities, in those communities where we’re recovering those guns,” Monaco told CNN on Tuesday. “They’re coming in from elsewhere.”
The department says that it seized more than 10,000 firearms in 2021 during its criminal investigations. It also seized 250 tons of narcotics, and nearly $ 1 billion in cash and assets from illicit drug proceeds.
Monaco said Tuesday that the Justice Department is playing a role in addressing the rash of retail theft, particularly when items stolen from stores end up for sale across state lines or on the internet.
“When it comes to using the internet or using interstate means to sell those stolen goods, that’s absolutely something that we can come in and help with,” she said.