It appears that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to give racially biased cops a pass.
Sessions wants to stall – or end — a federal review of police departments where racial profiling, excessive use of force and racially discriminatory police practices are prevalent.
It’s a troubling development by the Trump administration and another attempt to squash a critical law enforcement policy ordered by former President Barack Obama in his effort to protect citizens of color who are legitimately skeptical of police.
Sessions has asked a court to enforce a 90-day delay in a consent decree to overhaul Baltimore’s beleaguered Police Department. Baltimore is one of nearly two dozen police departments where the Obama administration found patterns of racial discrimination and excessive force.
Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department began 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff’s offices and resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in 15 cities, including Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.
From the outset, Sessions’ Senate confirmation was opposed by 150 civil rights groups because of fears that a Sessions-run Justice Department will target Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, gays, and women.
And now, Sessions wants to reverse Obama’s policy and, perhaps, turn a blind eye to racial bias inside some police departments.
Civil rights advocates never trusted Sessions and their fears that Sessions is racially insensitive has suddenly become a stark reality.
Why would Sessions want to block police reform? Or is his move just another attempt to undermine Obama’s legacy?
“I’m deeply concerned that Attorney General Sessions’ announcement for a Department of Justice review of federal civil rights agreements with law enforcement would undermine the principle of equal justice for all Americans,” Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) said in a statement. “I fear that this announcement paves the way for a retreat from accountability and oversight of allegations of systemic civil rights abuses.”
Four months into President Trump’s tenure, the move by Sessions could be just the beginning. Some social justice advocates believe Sessions will attempt to resurrect the outlawed stop-and-frisk practices that allowed for racial profiling. Trump has already indicated that he wants to be the nation’s law and order president, but seems clueless to the longstanding strain between police and citizens of color.
In New York, for example, the police department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm that police have stopped hundreds of thousands of law-abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are Black and Latino.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, a majority-Black city where tensions between African-Americans and police has been an ongoing concern, the case involving the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died in police custody, resulted in a Justice Department review.
The Justice Department issued a scathing report that found Baltimore police had engaged in a pattern of discrimination that violated the civil rights of Black citizens.
I was gratified to learn that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and other top Baltimore officials are pushing back against Sessions. They promised to reform the city’s Police Department regardless of Sessions’ legal tactics to stall the process.
“I’m asking the citizens to have faith that we will continue this work,” Pugh said. “We do want to transform our Police Department.”
“Those reforms are going to take place no matter what,” said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. “We have to continue to stress the necessity of constitutional policing in Baltimore.”
Sessions is a threat to civil rights and I wonder how much hell he will unleash on communities of color while leading the Department of Justice for the next 3 ½ years.
What do you think?