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.
Don’t call me next Friday afternoon; my March 24 is spoken for:
On Friday, March 24, 2017, the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will convene a public panel session to examine the subtle effects of racism in the state. The meeting will take place at the Public Safety Building, 114 2nd Avenue SE, Aberdeen, SD 57401, from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm (CDT). This meeting is open to the public, and parking is available on-site. Persons with disabilities requiring reasonable accommodations should contact the Rocky Mountain Regional Office at 303-866-1040 prior to the meeting.
The Committee will hear testimony from law enforcement, representatives of local, state, and federal agencies, tribal officials, community organizations, and advocacy groups. The session will also address the value of use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement, and minority policing that impacts Native Americans and immigrant communities.
Members of the public will be invited to speak during the open forum, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. The Committee will also accept written testimony submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 24, 2017. This session is the first of three meetings to be held across South Dakota – over the next 12 months – to address the subtle effects of racism in the state.
After all testimony has been received, the Advisory Committee will issue findings and recommendations in a report to the Commission.
Members of the South Dakota Advisory Committee are: Dr. Richard M. Braunstein, Chair; Charles T. Abourezk, Rapid City; Melanie K. Bliss, Sioux Falls; Marcia N. Bunger, Spencer; Scott D. German, Peever; A. Gay Kingman, Rapid City; Lloyd C. LaCroix, Rapid City; Mike J. Levsen, Aberdeen; Renee B. Olson, Waubay; and Ira W. Taken Alive, McLaughlin.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with studying and advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing an annual federal civil rights enforcement report. Advisory Committees to the Commission conduct reviews and produce reports and recommendations concerning state and local civil rights issues. Appointees to the Committees serve four-year terms and are unremunerated. For more information about the work of the Commission and its Advisory Committees, visit http://www.usccr.gov and follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/usccrgov [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, press release, 2017.03.13].
Body cameras on cops, minority policing, and “subtle effects of racism”—that sounds like a meeting worth attending.
I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children…. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them [Pres. Donald Trump, address to Congress, as transcribed by NPR, 2017.02.28].
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms [Chief Justice Earl Warren, Opinion, Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.05.17].
South Dakota’s constitution explicitly affirms that education is a civil right explicitly:
The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education [SD Const., Article 8, Section 1, 1889].
Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump were correct that education is a civil right. However, President Trump is incorrect in his policy conclusion about protecting that civil right.
Civil rights aren’t a matter of choice, and they aren’t costs that we shift to the private sector. Civil rights our our common cause, achieved through common effort through government—in this case, through the public school system.
On the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, President-Elect Donald Trump responds to criticism from King ally and Congressman John Lewis by saying his district, metro Atlanta, is “in horrible shape” and saying Congressman Lewis is “All talk, talk, talk” and “no action.”
DOJ finds one South Dakotan who says his hospital not only placed him in a nursing home without consulting him, but also called his landlord to cancel his lease. Other interviewees talked about nursing home staff causing “induced helplessness” by forbidding them from engaging in activities like opening cans or putting on their own shoes, the kinds of activities residents could practice to work toward living on their own at home again.
Taking individuals with disabilities out of their homes and communities is particularly hard on American Indian residents:
Institutionalization poses unique challenges in Native American culture. Stakeholders from tribal communities told us that it is particularly important in Native American cultures to be able to remain in one’s own home. Elders play an important role in their families and communities, and forcing them to leave damages this relationship. In addition, the restriction on hiring family members to provide personal care may pose a particular challenge for Native Americans. According to stakeholders in Native American communities, hiring outsiders to care for relatives is seen as a family failure, and lack of cultural competence poses a challenge when an outsider comes into the home [Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, letter and findings to State of South Dakota on “United States’ Investigation, Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, of South Dakota’s Use of Nursing Facilities to Serve Individuals with Disabilities,” Department of Justice: Office of Civil Rights, 2016.05.02, p. 31].
Not only does this “unnecessary segregation” violate disabled individuals’ civil rights, but it also “wastes the State’s fiscal resources.” DOJ notes studies, including results of South Dakota’s own task forces on the topic, that show that caring for individuals with disabilities in their homes and communities instead of in permanent institutional settings can save big money. One underused and overly restricted state program for home-based care, the Home Services Waiver, could cut the cost of caring for some individuals by almost three-fourths:
The report doesn’t give exact numbers, but if we’re talking potential savings of $27,000 multiplied by “thousands” of residents, and if, as DOJ, there are other cost savings and federal funding that the state has declined to apply for, then we’re easily talking about savings of $30 million or more, certainly enough for South Dakota to take action without needing any new revenue, and possibly enough to cover more than half of the cost of expanding Medicaid for other low-income South Dakotans.
“In South Dakota, we have undertaken a number of initiatives to allow more individuals to live independent lives,” Gov. Daugaard said. “Just in the last few years, we have expanded health care recruitment programs for rural communities; promoted employing people with disabilities; implemented a Money Follows the Person program; and increased provider rates for community-based services. Though I recognize we still have areas to improve upon, South Dakota has been making headway” [Governor Dennis Daugaard, press release, 2016.05.02].
South Dakota has not been making headway in providing home- and community-based care. The state’s own task force report says so. The state had Abt Associates study long-term care in South Dakota in 2007 and update that report last year. Abt’s 2015 update said, “Since the prior report, we do not see evidence of perceptible shifts in availability of home and community based services in South Dakota: adult day facilities, senior centers, nutrition programs, homemaker services, and in home service clients all remain at similar, relatively low levels.”
South Dakota has actually cut services and declined to seek available help from the feds. Consider the example of the brain-injury treatment program in Irene:
Many individuals are segregated in South Dakota’s nursing facilities because they require care or assistance due to mental illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries. Some of these people are further segregated based on their specific disability in designated nursing facilities or units. Many of these individuals can receive services in integrated settings.
For example, in 2008, the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with a private nursing facility, opened a nursing facility unit in Irene, South Dakota, to provide specialized care for individuals with traumatic brain injuries. This traumatic brain injury unit was created to allow several South Dakotans to return home to the State, having previously only been able to access adequate care elsewhere. But the State has not developed alternative, community-based services for South Dakotans who require services due to traumatic brain injuries. Rather, it has cut services that once existed and has declined to pursue federal funding that could help create a home- and community-based services program for people with brain injuries. Instead, the State funds the placement of approximately 80 people with traumatic brain injuries in the Irene facility and other nursing facilities across South Dakota [Gupta/DOJ, 2016.05.02, p. 14].
We aren’t making headway; the Irene example suggests we’ve gone backwards on keeping South Dakotans out of nursing homes. The Department of Justice has determined that’s abuse of individuals with disabilities, elderly or young. How Senator Novstrup and our various task forces on aging and long-term care missed that escapes me.
DOJ says we’d better stop missing it. The May 2 letter says the State has been cooperative so far, and they expect we can come to an “amicable and cooperative” solution to help thousands of South Dakotans escape unnecessary nursing home placement and enjoy more independent lives in their homes and communities. But “in the unexpected event that we are unable to reach a resolution regarding our concerns, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit pursuant to the ADA….”
Strange that it takes the Department of Justice to tell us to implement a solution that would enhance the quality of life for thousands of South Dakotans, particularly for our Lakota neighbors, and save the state money.