DOJ, Trump Decide The Federal Government Needs To Give Chicago The Police Department It Doesn't Want

from the Judge-Dredd-appointed-to-advisory-role dept

In a move that's tone deaf if nothing else, the DOJ is going to court to block a consent decree put in place to overhaul Chicago's unconstitutional policing. This announcement comes days after a jury convicted Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery -- one count for each bullet he fired at the teen as the teen walked away from him.

This also follows more tone-deafness from the "law and order" presidency. Trump's speech to a law enforcement convention contained several comments about Chicago and its perceived police problem. But the problem Trump sees is police not policing hard enough. Trump wants stop-and-frisk brought back -- one of the key modifications contained in the consent decree.

Stop-and-frisk programs encourage unconstitutional stops. Just ask the NYPD, which saw its program changed drastically following a lawsuit brought against the city. Police officials and then-mayor Mike Bloomberg promised a dramatic spike in crime if officers weren't allowed to engage in suspicionless stops/frisks. This never materialized. Crime went down across the board.

Trump thinks a return to unconstitutional practices will solve Chicago's violent crime problem, but there's no evidence out there that provides a basis for this belief. Violent crime is already declining in Chicago, even without unconstitutional stops. What Trump wants is something people in Chicago don't want. And that includes the people who matter -- like Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he welcomes federal reinforcements — in the form of more ATF, DEA and FBI agents — to “take down gang leadership” and stop the “drug trade.”

But that’s not the kind of help Donald Trump is offering. Returning to the more intensive “stop-and-frisk” procedures would run contrary to Chicago’s ongoing effort to repair shattered public trust between citizens and police, the mayor said.

“The failed policies he’s talking about have no place for a city that’s working together with communities about how to build — not only trust, but a collaborative and cooperative relationship,” the mayor said Monday.

“So, while resources are always welcome, the idea of what President Trump is talking about is not only not welcome — it’s antithetical to what we’re working on, and that is about a strong, pro-active, professional police department.”

Nonetheless, the DOJ will try to block the consent decree that might rebuild some of the trust the Chicago PD has thoroughly destroyed over the past several years. Why? Because the president said so.

Following an order from President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that he is providing more resources for law enforcement in Chicago and filing a brief opposing a proposed consent decree on Chicago police.

The rationale is even worse. According to AG Jeff Sessions, the spike in violent crime in Chicago (which, again, has declined 20% over the last year) is due to police being hampered by the Constitution and not enough respect being shown by the general public.

There is one government institution, and one alone, that has the ability to make Chicago safer—that is the Chicago Police Department. Our goal should be to empower it to fulfill its duties, not to restrict its proper functioning or excessively demean the entire Department for the errors of a few. Make no mistake: unjustified restrictions on proper policing and disrespect for our officers directly led to this tragic murder surge in Chicago.

At a fundamental level, there is a misperception that police are the problem and that their failures, their lack of training, and their abuses create crime. But the truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem. The results of the ACLU settlement in November 2015, as revealed by Judge Cassel’s study, established this fact dramatically, conclusively, and most painfully for the City of Chicago. When police are restrained from using lawfully established policies of community engagement, when arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged. There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement.

"Unjustified restrictions on proper policing" apparently includes the Fourth Amendment. That's just the beginning of this garbage. From there, Sessions moves on to cite the only study on policing he agrees with -- one that decides correlation equals causation and ties increases in violent crime to a civil rights lawsuit settlement. The study has nothing to say about similar cities undergoing similar modifications to police programs that have not experienced violent crime increases. It's almost as if its authors started from their conclusion and worked backwards.

Sessions loves this faulty study and thinks it provides some sort of scientific basis for encroaching on civil liberties under the guise of making the city safer. But he's wrong about this, just like he's wrong about everything else in his statement.

Zachary Fardon, a former US attorney working in Chicago, says the DOJ's plan to block the consent decree will make things worse for the city and the Chicago PD. The problem isn't Constitutional restraints on policing. The problem is the relationship the PD has with the people it's supposed to protect.

What’s at stake here is not just constitutional policing. Lives are at stake. People are dying. Children are dying. Our city suffers, year after year.

Law enforcement is not the entire solution, but it’s a big part. A consent decree will give our cops support, training and the credibility they need to engage in effective and constitutional policing. A consent decree will give our South and West side citizens greater trust in our officers and institutions, and greater safety in their neighborhoods.

If Sessions spent more time in violence-afflicted neighborhoods, he would know that we still have kids who are growing up more afraid of police than of gangs. When that changes, we mark the beginning of a new Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune's editorial board is even more scathing in its assessment of Jeff Sessions' bumptious interloping:

Thank you for your interest in Chicago’s police consent decree, now in its final stages of development. We are confident your “statement of interest” will be given due consideration by U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who will hold public hearings on the draft agreement later this month.

We have just one question: Where were you in early 2017, when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to follow through on the consent decree prescribed by the U.S. Department of Justice you took over when the White House changed hands?

Oh, now we remember: You wanted no part of it. You believed then, as you do now, that worrying about the civil rights of suspects gets in the way of fighting crime. Instead of doubling down on the hard work that had been done in Chicago, you tried (unsuccessfully) to torpedo Baltimore’s consent decree, which was then at this same public hearing stage.

If citizens don't trust the police, they won't report crimes, provide testimony, or supply evidence. All of this exacerbates the city's violent crime problem. When they see officers unwilling to do their jobs at all, let alone Constitutionally, they see there's no point in asking them for help. And when they see officers routinely escape punishment for misconduct and excessive force deployment, they begin to believe the cure might be at least as bad as the disease.

As the editorial points out, if Sessions really wanted to solve Chicago's problems, he wouldn't be trying to block a consent decree crafted with an eye on rebuilding destroyed trust. It ends with this extended middle finger.

Chicago doesn’t need or appreciate your drive-by assessment.

Trump and Sessions both believe the problem with American policing is that officers aren't being given the respect that is their God-given right. That's the beginning and end of it. The Constitution is just standing in the way of enforcing the law. Both are telling law enforcement agencies what they want to hear: that they're persecuted and misunderstood. Not a single member of this administration is willing to tell them what they need to hear: that destroyed trust takes time to rebuild and it can never be restored by engaging in the same behavior that destroyed it.


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Oct 2018 @ 12:02pm

    Techdirt would rather let gang violence -- and drug dealing -- go on while letting the freedoms of law-abiding persons be subject to increasing gang violence.

    [citation desperately needed so you don’t look like a liar to everyone with an ounce of goddamn sense]


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