Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump Nominee Confirms Our Fears for the Next Era in Police Oversight

The "next era" in police oversight on the part of the Department of Justice will be....oops, there won't be one.

Trump attorney general nominee Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama is an
opponent of civil rights, equality, justice for all and criminal justice reform and transformation.

Which makes him the perfect Trump and Republican candidate.

Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 because of racist statements he made, and he appears to be opposite the type of leadership and integrity required by the role of the nation’s top lawyer.

We predicted after the presidential election that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) Division would be gutted in a Trump presidency.  Sure enough, Sessions, in Senate confirmation hearings this week, gave notice that DOJ “patterns-and-practices” investigations into cities’ police departments would be a thing of the past.

Our prediction was not a tough call.

Sessions has joined the chorus of police oversight opponents in saying, quite oddly, that police oversight leads to higher crime!

“Sessions struggled on day one of his confirmation hearing to reason past statements, and his record. In 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship because he was deemed too racist.  Allegations at the time said that he called a black attorney 'boy,' and once suggested a white lawyer was a race traitor for working for black clients.”

In a Hail Mary of timing, the DOJ Civil Rights Division released a report touting its accomplishments since 1994 when federal legislation permitted the DOJ to investigate and dictate to local law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Justice COPS department in October announced it was initiating a “collaborative review” of the Memphis police department.  This is different from a patterns-and-practices investigation, which the DOJ Civil Rights Division has imposed upon cities.  The outcomes typically are consent decrees that the cities must enter to reform discriminatory and unconstitutional practices, and the cities must pay for about five years of monitoring  progress.  During the Obama administration, 23 cities were tabbed for these DOJ investigations. There were none during the Bush administration.  

Sixteen cities, including Memphis, have been selected by the COPS office to join voluntary reviews, ostensibly to improve those departments.  Another motive on the part of cities to join these collaborative reviews was to head off a patterns-and-practices investigation by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

Memphis; Fort Pierce, Florida, and Saint Anthony, Minnesota, were the last three cities named to join collaborative reviews by the COPS office in 4Q 2016.

It is likely they will be the last cities, period, at least during a Trump presidency.

While in Memphis a DOJ staffer told us, “We have no idea (what’s going to happen to us under Trump), but if somebody knows, I wish they would tell me.”

DOJ employees and attorneys, especially in the Civil Rights Division, are polishing up their resumes.  The COPS office, unfortunately, could be next down the line in the order of at least semi-extinction. 

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