AG Merrick Garland seeks DOJ budget hike for anti-extremism, policing efforts

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is seen at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on April 26. Garland said the department's budget proposes a $304 million increase for programs that support community-oriented policing. Pool Photo by Mandel Ngan/UPI

May 4 (UPI) — In his first appearance on Capitol Hill as U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland asked lawmakers on Tuesday for a budget increase of $85 million to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism.

In testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee, Garland outlined the Justice Department’s budgetary needs as part of President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal year 2022.

Garland said the department’s budget includes a $45 million increase for the FBI to fund domestic terrorism investigations and $40 million for U.S. attorneys to handle rising caseloads.

Garland said at his confirmation hearing in the Senate earlier this year that one of his top priorities would be investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack. Federal prosecutors are pursuing more than 400 cases against rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump in one of the largest Justice Department investigations in history.

The department budget also proposes a $304 million increase for programs that support community-oriented policing and address systemic inequities.

“Promoting public trust between communities and law enforcement is essential to making both communities and policing safer,” Garland told the panel.

Garland has already rescinded a Trump-era directive that restricted the department’s use of court-enforced consent decrees to implement changes at local law enforcement agencies. He opened inquiries into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville last month.

The Minneapolis investigation was announced a day after a jury convicted former cop Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd last year. In Louisville, the department is examining the police department for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

The department also seeks a $232 million increase to fight gun violence, including grant funds for community violence intervention programs, improved background checks and more comprehensive “red flag” laws.

“Gun deaths continue to occur at a staggering rate in our country,” Garland said Tuesday. “There is more we can do to make our communities safer. This is both a law enforcement issue and a public health issue.”

He added that the department wants an extra $33 million for the Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Service and other related civil rights work.

“From protecting voting rights to prosecuting hate crimes like those experienced by our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, [the Justice Department’s] civil rights work is critical to protecting the American dream.”

Garland also noted President Biden’s $1 billion request to support the work of the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women. The grant programs administered by the office, he said, will “assist our state, local, territorial and tribal partners in addressing gender-based violence.”

He also said a $120 million request will expand efforts to address a backlog of unprocessed rape kits and train law enforcement officers and prosecutors to investigate gender-based violence.

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