The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to suspend grants to local law enforcement until he's sure that no federal taxpayer money is funding police departments that engage in discrimination, according to a letter obtained by NPR.

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) president Sherrilyn Ifill said the Justice Department needs to deploy a powerful tool at its disposal to combat racial discrimination: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The innovation of it was really designed to address recalcitrant Southern jurisdictions that refused to comply with Brown v. Board of Education," Ifill said, referring to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court school desegregation decision. "But it doesn't apply just to education. It essentially says that federal funds cannot be used to support local programs that engage in discrimination."

The new letter to the Justice Department says police have killed at least 17 Black people since Garland was confirmed as Attorney General this year. Years of Justice Department investigations and independent research have uncovered racial discrimination in patterns of traffic stops, arrests and even deaths from law enforcement agencies across the country.

"Every new shooting, every video brings with it an urgency to address discriminatory police conduct nationwide," said Puneet Cheema, who manages the Justice and Public Safety Project at the LDF. "And now it's not an individual officer, it's not an individual department. It's a national problem, and it needs a national solution."