City Officials Step Up After DOJ Told To Stop Worrying About Civil Rights Violations By Law Enforcement Agencies

from the bold-'us-vs.-them'-strategy-to-prop-up-flagging-LEO-morale dept

It appears the DOJ will no longer be in the business of policing the police. A memo issued by every cop's new best friend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, states the DOJ will be doing more to empower police and will conduct fewer civil rights investigations of law enforcement agencies. On one hand, it makes sense to have the locals handle their own problems. On the other hand, the locals have repeatedly shown a willingness to ignore abusive policing until the feds are forced to step in.

It may be difficult to roll back DOJ agreements and oversight of investigated agencies immediately. It may, in fact, be impossible. Those consent decrees that have made their way through the court system on the way to being put into force would take some serious litigating to roll back. It's not clear the DOJ's interested in attempting an expensive clawback of police oversight and policy changes.

It's those that haven't been formalized through this process that are in danger of being scaled back, if not removed completely. The DOJ has filed a motion asking for time to review its proposed consent decree with the Baltimore PD in light of AG Sessions' memo. The DOJ also just finished wrapping up an investigation of the Chicago PD, but statements made by Sessions and President Trump indicate the White House and DOJ are more interested in solving Chicago's crime problem, rather than its police problem.

Sessions himself has no interest in police misconduct or systemic civil liberties violations and abuse the DOJ has uncovered over the past eight years. He claimed the lengthy investigation the DOJ's civil rights division performed produced nothing more than "anecdotal" evidence. He made this claim while admitting he hasn't read any of the investigative reports.

By not reading the reports, Sessions won't have to deal with contradictory thoughts while shifting the DOJ towards its new position as a law enforcement booster club. Adam Serwer of The Atlantic points out the vast amount of denial Sessions is swimming in.

As attorney general, Sessions said he read a summary, but not the full Ferguson report, which found that “95% of Manner of Walking charges; 94% of all Fail to Comply charges; 92% of all Resisting Arrest charges; 92% of all Peace Disturbance charges; and 89% of all Failure to Obey charges” were filed against black residents. But on the basis of the summary alone, Sessions concluded that the report was “pretty anecdotal” and “not scientifically based.”

The refusal to believe police abuse could be systemic rather than individual is, in the aftermath of all the data collected by the very agency Sessions now leads, a form of denial. Nor can Sessions’s decision be justified by the familiar excuse that police reforms lead to higher crime rates—the notion that “it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” is a normative standard that would eschew federal oversight of local police regardless of the crime rate or the gravity of any abuse that might occur.

This is a problem that's going to be bigger than just the guy sitting at the head of the DOJ organizational chart. Sessions' memo made it clear he actually believes misconduct and discriminatory policing are the handywork of a "few bad apples." That cannot possibly be true unless it's just a "few bad apples" issuing 90% of the summonses and performing 90% of the arrests. Every investigation by the DOJ turns up systemic abuses. Not one has reached the conclusion that the problems would all go away with a handful of firings.

Sessions' memo is morale booster for bad cops. It states the DOJ will focus on everything but systemic police misconduct and every excuse will be made to clear cops of wrongdoing. The DOJ's civil rights division at least gave people hope that America's policing could be improved, possibly even rising to the level of "constitutional" most of the time. That hope is now gone. As Adam Serwer puts it, Sessions' DOJ is abandoning the public by turning a blind eye to misconduct by public servants.

Sessions’s memo reads as an announcement that it is no longer the business of the federal government if American citizens’ rights are violated by those sworn to protect them and empowered with lethal force to do so. When local governments violate the basic constitutional rights of citizens, Americans are supposed to be able to look to the federal government to protect those rights. Sessions has made clear that when it comes to police abuses, they’re now on their own.

For what it's worth, some cities whose consent decrees might disappear thanks to the DOJ's new marching orders are promising to carry on without the federal government's carrots and sticks. Baltimore officials are saying they're not interested in rollbacks or compromises in the proposed consent decree the DOJ wants more time to examine in light of Sessions' "law and order" memo. [Warning: ad blocker-blocking dead ahead.]

Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect of eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish," Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement.

The same goes for Chicago, where a consent decree may never be put in place by the DOJ.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police chief Eddie Johnson have also vowed to press ahead with reforms within the city's police department, noting that a plan has already been drafted in recent weeks.

This is encouraging, even if the statements may end up being more sincere than the follow-through. The discouraging fact is these cities would have likely done nothing about the problems in their law enforcement agencies without the DOJ stepping in. If the DOJ's no longer going to be pursuing investigations of local PDs, it's all in the hands of local officials, and most are willing to ignore issues until they become front-page news around the nation.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:45am

    Obviously there's no need to keep those efforts up. The statistics make it clear that white, Christian, rich good men aren't being targeted. Only filthy black, rape-y Hispanic and generally obnoxious non Pure Americans (TM) are suffering. So all is functioning well. HAIL DRUMPF!

    Ahem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:52am

    Uhm...

    >The DOJ also just finished wrapping up an investigation of the Chicago PD, but statements made by Sessions and President Trump indicate the White House and DOJ are more interested in solving Chicago's crime problem, rather than its police problem.

    Aren't they one and the same?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 12:43pm

    The federal government shouldn't be involved with how police departments work. That is not to say that police departments need to change, just that it is not the federal governments jurisdiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TruthHurts (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      When the local, county and state officials overseeing those local cops are as corrupt as the cops themselves, damned right I want federal oversight.

      But I'd also want to be overseeing the federal overseers, sort of an uber-overseer so that I could stomp on the ones that try to take away from or completely overlook the bill of rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re:

        Based on what we see from the FBI, NSA and other federal agencies, why would you have expectations that they will worry about our rights?

        The Supreme Court is where bill of rights violations should be argued.

        The Fed can't and shouldn't do everything. There are state rights and federal rights that are clearly defined.

        If you want the feds to handle local policy, then should the states right to legalize pot be allowed?

        Local control is always a choice that should be used, because there is more accountability at that level.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:30pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The Supreme Court is where bill of rights violations should be argued.

          ...the Supreme Court is a part of the federal government, Anon.

          And once the Supreme Court issues a ruling, who do you expect to enforce it? If a local PD is violating a Supreme Court ruling, by what means can it be made to comply?

          (Hint: the DoJ, the US Marshals, and the Army are also federal agencies.)

          If you want the feds to handle local policy, then should the states right to legalize pot be allowed?

          This is false equivalence. You are suggesting that the federal government intervening to protect individual freedoms from being infringed by state and local authorities is equivalent to the federal government intervening to infringe individual freedoms that are recognized by state and local authorities.

          You want to bring up states' rights? Here's the text of the Tenth Amendment:

          The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

          Emphasis mine.

          What that means is that the federal government cedes some rights to the states, but the states cede some rights to individuals.

          This is more clearly codified in the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, which specifically forbids states from denying due process to citizens.

          There is a clear Fourteenth Amendment argument in favor of the federal government punishing police that deny due process to the public. The federal government punishing marijuana use in states where it is legal is an entirely different matter.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:14pm

      Re:

      The federal government shouldn't be involved with how police departments work.

      Just to be clear: in the Jim Crow South, when local police continued to enforce segregation even after it had been ruled unconstitutional, and arrested, beat, and even murdered and disappeared peaceful protesters, and the feds intervened...you are contending that the feds should not have intervened, and should have just let things play out as they would?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:18pm

        Re: Re:

        No, they should, because there were court cases that determined this.

        I am not saying the federal government won't ever get involved, but the locals shouldn't want the federal government to get involved.

        The locals need to enact that change. Get rid of your police chief. Get rid of your mayor, get rid of your Gov. That is about the only way to enable real change.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I am not saying the federal government won't ever get involved, but the locals shouldn't want the federal government to get involved.

          If they're being beaten and gassed, yeah, they kinda should.

          The locals need to enact that change. Get rid of your police chief. Get rid of your mayor, get rid of your Gov. That is about the only way to enable real change.

          Again, your assertions suggest that you're ignorant of history. "Get rid of your police chief, your mayor, and your governor" is not very good advice when those people are not allowing you to vote.

          It took the Voting Rights Act to even allow disenfranchised people to vote their oppressors out of office. It was a federal law. It was enforced by federal agencies.

          That there have existed/do exist other federal agencies that were not as friendly to civil rights (Hoover's FBI, the Roberts SCOTUS) does not negate the federal government's role in protecting them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:47pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Who isn't allowed to vote today? Can you not walk into a town council meeting today?

            Voting rights act? We are worried about that today? Voting rights are a joke today, I don't even need to show an ID to vote, that is a fact, at least as of November.

            I am talking about today's federal government, the recent FBI issues, the recent NSA issues, not J Edgar Hoover.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:18pm

      Re:

      Yes, every civil rights violation in any PD in any state should simply be taken to the SCOTUS. Then, after the rulings, a magical fairy department is in charge of enforcing them. Maybe we can call it something like "Department of Justice."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:24pm

        Re: Re:

        With all the violations of the constitution that the federal government has been accused/has done very recently, why do you think that the Federal Government will make local issues any better?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:28pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I live in New Jersey. It is a pretty big state. I probably can't get the attention of Chris Christie, but maybe I can. I know for a fact that I can walk into my cities town council meeting, walk up to the mike and address the mayor and city council. In fact, I have done so.

          Why would you want the Feds involvement?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 5:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Because they're hypocrites. Gawd, you're willfully ignorant.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2017 @ 6:44am

      Re:

      "The federal government shouldn't be involved with how police departments work."

      Yes - they should, when the police are in violation of the law. I used to think this was rather obvious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 13 Apr 2017 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re:

        It is, to anyone who's not being willfully obtuse and putting ideological absolutism ahead of common sense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2017 @ 12:02pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, push everything off to the federal government, because the FBI doesn't violate rights, the NSA doesn't violate rights, the DEA doesn't violate rights.

          Hell, the locals get their ideas from the feds, as well as military equipment.

          You just ignore reality, citizens have much more power in dealing with local government than they do with the federal government.

          Keep ignoring this fact, but things will never change if you do so.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Thad, 13 Apr 2017 @ 3:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yes, push everything off to the federal government, because the FBI doesn't violate rights, the NSA doesn't violate rights, the DEA doesn't violate rights.

            Sorry, what I meant to say was "to anyone who's not being willfully obtuse, putting ideological absolutism ahead of common sense, and opening their posts with bullshit strawman arguments." I regret the oversight.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 1:07pm

    Two years ago today...

    ...six pigs in Baltimore murdered Freddie Gray.

    Justice will come, whether racist Trumpsucker Jeff Sessions wants it or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Erik, 12 Apr 2017 @ 4:44pm

    I am Negan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 5:44pm

    Sessions' memo made it clear he actually believes misconduct and discriminatory policing are the handywork of a "few bad apples."

    I wish. Him actually believing that could go a long way to getting police officers fired, rather than put on paid leave until the heat dies down. Or quietly transferred to a different area. No, I very seriously doubt he believes that any police officers are actually "bad apples."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    REM(RND) (profile), 13 Apr 2017 @ 4:17am

    The Denial is Strong with this One

    I can envision Jeff Sessions, hanging by one hand over the precipice of Public Opinion, shouting to a large black man holding a copy of the Furguson Report "No! That's not true! That's IMPOSSIBLE!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2017 @ 6:50am

    Why is it these asshats are requesting additio0nal security?
    Could it be they have nefarious intentions they feel we will not like? What ever happened to our representative form of government? When the representatives fear their constituents does it mean they are not doing their jobs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2017 @ 4:20am

    uh

    "Manner of walking"? are you shitting me? How can that even be a crime?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Apr 2017 @ 2:31pm

    "It appears the DOJ will no longer be in the business of policing the police."

    Over the years we've determined they suck at it, so maybe independent third parties should be policing the police after all.

    This is the sort of vacuum that mafias and mobs will fill if we can't get a nice agency or non-profit to do it. (And do it effectively, that is to say they have to have teeth.)

    The police are not going to like it if they have to play nice and pay lofty protection fees or see their families perish in house fires.

    Mobs historically have never played nice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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