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Sessions Giving Free Reign To Police Departments Destroying Years Of Work By Obama To Reform Violent Practices

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Sessions Giving Free Reign To Police Departments Destroying Years Of Work By Obama To Reform Violent Practices

Concerns over Sessions as Attorney General

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

It was no surprise when Attorney General Jeff Session announced his decision Monday to curb the Justice Department office which investigates and sometimes sues local police department for “a pattern or practice” of unconstitutional law enforcement.

On February 28, Sessions told the National Association of Attorneys General. “We need, so far as we can, in my view, help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness.” Afterwards, he told reporters “So we’re going to try to pull back on [investigating police abuses], and I don’t think it’s wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.”

Sessions was signaling his intention to reverse the policy of the Obama  Justice Department, which opened investigations into 25 of the 18,000 police departments and sheriff’s offices across the country. Obama also enforced 19 consent decrees that resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police in Cleveland, Baltimore, New Orleans, Ferguson, Missouri and 15 other cities.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Sessions “directed his staff to look at whether law enforcement programs adhere to principles put forth by the Trump administration, including one declaring that ‘the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn’ the work police officers perform ‘in keeping American communities safe.’

What is surprising is that Sessions would align himself against police chiefs and federal judges when they try to address police misconduct issues that go beyond the “individual deeds of bad actors.”

The result of Sessions’ decision, said law professor Franklin Zimring in an interview with AlterNet, will be to hobble longstanding federal efforts to improve local police practices, with the help of the police.

“If you want to save one life or two, you prosecute an officer who uses excessive force,” says Zimring. “If you want to save four hundred lives, you rewrite the rules on use of lethal force under a consent decree.”

Zimring is the author of the Amazon non-fiction best-seller, When Police Kill, The book documents how and why U.S. police departments kill about 1,000 people per year. Since January 1, 2017, a total of 305 people have died at the hands of U.S. law enforcement, according to a database at killedbypolice.net.

Sessions’ action, says Zimring, ignores the “tremendously beneficial effects” of consent decrees..

“Exhibit A is the Los Angeles Police Department,’ he says. In 1994 the LAPD  entered the first such decree with the Clinton administration’s Justice Department after the videotape of LAPD officers beating Rodney King set off a massive riot in 1992.  Since then LA has had the second best improvement in public safety statistics in the country, he said.

“Los Angeles is safer and the police practices are better, as result of the decree, no question,” he said.

“The second problem,” Zimring went on, “is that when you want to deemphasize the federal role [in investigating police practices] you will inevitably ‘leave it to the states.’ But state governments and police have near zero capacity to understand and deal with police shootings. And the individual departments are too small and self-interested to investigate properly.

A third problem, which Sessions has yet to address, is whether the courts will go along. The consent decrees are agreements between the Justice Department, the police department and a federal judge. “he Justice Department would not be able to unilaterally unwind the agreements without court intervention,” the Timesnotes.

For supporters of President Trump, the Attorney General is signaling and end to the so-called “the war of cops.” In fact, says Zimring, fatal assaults on police officers have declined, on a per capita basis, by 70 percent, since 1976. In the last six years, the downward trend has flattened with an average of 50 officers have been killed annually in the line of duty, he said.

“The argument is that if you do anything that inconveniences police officers or subjects them to liability you support a ‘war on cops; and you don’t care about crime, “ Zimring said. “It’s an ideological proposition. That doesn’t mean it is factually true.”

The reality of Session’s decision, he says, is that if any U.S. police department is “willfully engaging in constitutional violations, ”they may well escape accountability under the Trump administration.

“We’re going to have to find other ways to deal with them,” Zimring said.

Such as?

“Sue them in federal court, with a little help from people who are not friends with Jeff Sessions,” he said.

 Jefferson Morley is AlterNet‘s Washington correspondent. He is the author of  JFK and CIA: The Secret Assassination Files (Kindle) and Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.



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  2. Dominick Vila April 12, 2017

    The Trump administration is engaged in the pursuit of an agenda that, not only reverses judicial progress, but is passing bills that are beyond what most rational people would even consider, including one that allows Internet and Communication service providers to sell our private information to the highest bidder, one that give employers the right to demand genetic testing as a condition for employment, reversal of environmental and job safety protections, and just about anything that stands in the way of the elite and corporate America making an extra buck, or that helps ethnic and cultural minorities or the most vulnerable among us. What is happening is almost a manifestation of the Satanic Verses implemented under the premise of righteous Christian indignation.

    1. kep April 12, 2017

      You have been drinking that liberal koolade for far too long. Liberal policies have near destroyed America. Conservative policies will help undo the damage dome by the Emperor and all his illegal, un Constitutional executive orders that stripped rights from Americans.

      1. Dominick Vila April 12, 2017

        Which of the policies I mentioned do you support? Are you suggesting that Republican reliance on deficit spending is a chimera? That protecting the environment, work safety, consumer protections, and regulating Wall Street are evil concepts? As for President Obama being an Emperor, you may want to read the definition of Emperor. If you do, what you will find is that the current occupant of the Oval Office is the U.S. President in history to display the attributes that pertain to the definition of Emperor. BTW, protecting the welfare of the American people is not unconstitutional. Take a look at the Preamble.

      2. FireBaron April 12, 2017

        So, mentally ill people and those with a history of domestic violence, including felony convictions, should be able to buy firearms?

      3. ♚ King Leo ♚ April 12, 2017

        “I don’t care if the legal system functions as long as minorities get punished! Also I am cheerleading treason but I claim to be a patriot somehow!”
        – you, a traitor and fake patriot.

      4. Thoughtopsy April 12, 2017

        You suck at this, dude. A toddler could be more articulate and convincing than your rote garbage.

        Stop trying to be an astroturfer and go and do something useful with your life.

      5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 12, 2017

        kep, the koolade thing is tiresome and lame, but being a fart this won’t de(Turd) you from trying again to be relevant.
        From the looks of the responses your childish response has drawn, I would say you’re still just a joke trying to learn how to be mature.
        Conservatism has rendered your mind useless insofar as being able to form cogent thoughts. No need to ask you to keep trying at your advanced age.

        1. kep April 13, 2017

          You forgot that liberalism is a mental disorder. Get help.

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 13, 2017

            It would be nice if you would provide an explanation of your closed-minded understanding of liberalism. Are you the high-priest of misinformation? What is your definition of liberalism and how do you find it a mental illness.

            Just throwing a word around in your posts without context is the sign of a mental laziness, and FOX and other “conservative” outlets promotes this laziness.
            In light of that fact alone, wouldn’t you say that conservatism is a harmful philosophy? Anything that hampers social progress( i.e., a conservative attitude) is a barrier to progress. “Conservative” opinion disparaged to idea of the locomotive; when the telephone was invented, “conservatives” scoffed and called it “a new-fangled notion”, and when Wilbur and Orville Wright came up with a proposal to build a contraption that would fly, “conservatives laughed and said “if God had wanted men to fly, He would have given them wings”.

            And here you are today, a troglodyte type of mind-set who is against “tolerance”(liberalism), as in tolerance of new ideas and the ability to hear differing opinions.

            You, kep, are a Stone Age man living in a Modern World.

          2. kep April 13, 2017

            Tolerance? From a liberal? LMAO

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 13, 2017

            I suppose Trump and the GOP are gushing with tolerance. What a wonderful thing.

      6. PrecipitousDrop April 13, 2017

        We’re not all like you, kep. No, sir!
        I get your drift that the Constitution is a little too, uh, liberal, so just concentrate on the Pledge of Allegiance for now. Specifically, that part that goes, “… one Nation … with Liberty and Justice for All.”
        Justice for all, kep. That means LGBT people, brown people, people who let their visas expire, people who pray and people who don’t. We ALL are promised Liberty and Justice.
        Problem is, people like you, and Jeff Sessions, and the rest of the GOP keep trying to change the ‘ALL’ to ‘some’. Don’t fall for it, kep. Your rights can be taken as easily as mine. Especially by some guy with a uniform and a gun.

        1. kep April 13, 2017

          The Constitution is just fine as written. It is the liberals that keep trying to change it, reinterpret, or do away with it.
          I’m good with you list, with the exception of those that let their visas expire. Rights and freedoms granted to us by the Constitution are for AMERICANS. The Emperor did his best at trying to strip Americans of rights and freedoms. It will take more than a uniform and a gun, as I have a number of both.

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  4. FireBaron April 12, 2017

    “What is surprising is that Sessions would align himself against police chiefs and federal judges when they try to address police misconduct issues that go beyond the ‘individual deeds of bad actors’.” Unfortunately, this administration has a habit of enacting policies affecting law enforcement that are opposed by the police and judiciary.

  5. Jane Anderson April 12, 2017

    Rein. not reign.

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 12, 2017

      A common error. Like “there” versus “their”, and “your” versus “you’re”. It’s an idiosyncrasy of English, but we all get the intent beneath the typo.

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