U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is showing his racist stripes. Under the familiar guise of “local control” (read: states’ rights), the U.S. Attorney General yesterday ordered Justice Department officials to back off local law enforcement agencies when it comes to enforcing civil rights agreements:
The leader of the U.S. Justice Department has ordered federal authorities to emphasize building partnerships with local law enforcement over hard-nosed investigations of them, asking a federal judge in Baltimore to delay a hearing this week on a deal to overhaul the city’s troubled police force and casting a cloud over a host of other federal consent decrees that target unconstitutional law enforcement practices.
The new directive by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the bid to reconsider an agreement in Baltimore are the strongest signs yet that the Trump administration not only plans to scale back the number of new investigations it launches into unconstitutional policing, excessive force and other law enforcement misconduct allegations but also the likelihood it will seek to reopen agreements the Obama civil rights unit had already negotiated.
“Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing,” Sessions wrote in a memo to department officials and U.S. Attorneys late Monday. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies” [Carrie Johnson, “Justice Department to Review All Civil Rights Agreements on Police Conduct,” NPR, 2017.04.03].
Au contraire, Jefferson Beauregard. It is as much the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that local law enforcement agencies are respecting Americans’ civil rights as it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that local school districts and state universities are respecting the civil rights of all students.
“This is terrifying,” said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, who spent five years as the department’s chief of special litigation, overseeing investigations into 23 police departments such as New Orleans, Cleveland and Ferguson. “This raises the question of whether, under the current attorney general, the Department of Justice is going to walk away from its obligation to ensure that law enforcement across the country is following the Constitution” [Sari Horowitz, Mark Berman, and Wesley Lowery, “Sessions Orders Justice Dept. Review of All Police Reform Agreements, Including Ferguson,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2017.04.04].
The Sessions/Trump DOJ forgets all about local control when it comes to pressuring municipalities to crack down on immigration. “Local control” is an excuse, adopted when convenient, forgotten when not, for the Trump agenda of cracking down on the minorities outside his political base.