Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms
- Author: Leroy Wright Apr 05, 2017,
Apr 05, 2017, 18:31
"It's not about bad police officers".
To say the least, this is very bad news for Black and brown folks.
The move alarmed civil rights and police reform advocates.
"We will continue to pursue outcomes that both protect the civil rights of all community members and preserve the safety of law enforcement officers", said Kevin Sonoff, public affairs officer for the OR office.
The Sessions memo reflects a dramatic break from the Obama administration, which saw the federal government as essential in holding local police departments accountable for unconstitutional practices.
The Justice Department has opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and enforced 14 police reform agreements since 2009, according to the Post. All of them are all still active. The problem is, Chicago police have been waiting for federal guidance in the form of a "consent decree", after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found several problems within the CPD. (A consent decree is the resolution of a dispute between two parties without the admission of guilty).
He also expressed frustration with this pause again because it was the BPD along with the mayor who "accelerated by choice" the negotiations for the consent decree to reach an agreement on January 12, days before Trump's inauguration.
These agreements, known as "consent decrees", were key tools in the previous Justice Department's reform efforts, compelling police departments to enact certain reforms under penalty of court action.
The consent decree agreed to in the final days of President Barack Obama's administration issued sweeping reforms, including cameras in police transport vans and an emphasis on "de-escalation tactics". Ben Cardin and Chris Van Collen, and congressmen Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, who said they object to the Justice Department's request.
"Our mission statement directs the Department of Justice "to ensure public safety, ' 'to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime" and 'to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans, '" the memo states. "After all, these injunctions are entered to protect the public interest", Smith said.
The issue arose after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that he'll review the effectiveness of existing and proposed consent decrees. After Sessions sent out the memo calling for the review, DOJ attorneys asked a Maryland judge to delay a court hearing so that it could "review and assess" Baltimore's consent decree.
"I've never seen a city that cries out more for a consent decree than Chicago", said Lopez, now a visiting law professor at Georgetown University. But given what we know about Trump and Sessions, it's safe to assume that this is the first step in a long effort to roll back the Obama-era progress on policing. As one who has kept in mind the principles of this great civil rights leader ever since that assignment until the present day, I am appalled that anyone -- let alone the Attorney General ― would be against looking at the pattern and practices of police agencies.
Trump's drastic budget cuts would be a "silent killer" of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
"It's a punch in the gut to the community, certainly to me, and to the men and women of this police department", he said. "At that point it's not a matter of will".
North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor said Tuesday that the agency had not heard of any shifts as a result of the development, adding that officials still "look forward to working with the DOJ on this project".
Consent decrees often give the Justice Department authority to direct specific changes and initiatives within police departments, and agree to let judges oversee and enforce those changes. "There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States". And this unjustified and unconstitutional use of force has been compounded by a profound lack of accountability within the department, with little or no responsiveness to complaints of abuse and indifference to police efforts to hide or manipulate evidence and even lie outright in cover-up attempts.
Or maybe the attorney general thinks none of these things and just wants local policing to regress back to where it was five years ago.