Lawmakers seek details on agency reforms to improve efficiency and transparency

WASHINGTON DC (March 13, 2020) — Senators Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) pressed the Justice Department (DOJ) to provide details on specific reforms being implemented to avoid a repeat of its drawn-out and opaque investigation of US Park Police’s fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar. Their request follows a recent briefing from DOJ on the missteps that resulted in a two-year review of the officers’ actions in which details leaked to the news media before being shared with Ghaisar’s family.

“We must work together to ensure future investigations are handled in a more transparent, expedient, and thoughtful manner, which is a critical component if we are to maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement and our institutions. Furthermore, in order to prevent leaks to the media, the Department must carefully review and strengthen the process by which it notifies family members of declination decisions,” the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which US Park Police officers engaged with Mr Ghaisar.

Sen Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted the FBI about the investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded in March of 2019 with little information, provoking a follow-up letter from Sen Grassley.

In June of 2019, Sens Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from Sens Grassley and Warner in November inquiring about policy updates and related information. To date, the NPS has yet to respond to either Senator concerning this letter. In Senate Floor remarks today, Sen Grassley called on the Park Police to prioritize its responses to Congressional inquiries on the Ghaisar case.

Following the recent conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, the senators pledged to seek greater transparency, and requested a briefing from DOJ, which was provided on February 25, 2020. During the briefing, senior officials expressed that Barr was in the process of instituting changes to ensure future investigations are handled in a more expedient and appropriate manner.

Full text of the senators’ letter provided herein.

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