New Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just sent another message about the future of US law enforcement: there will be no policing of the police during the Trump Years. In his first on-the-record briefing, Sessions flat-out stated the DOJ’s many civil rights investigations of local police departments mean nothing.
[Sessions] said he had not read the Obama Justice Department’s scathing reports on unconstitutional policing practices in Ferguson, Mo., or in Chicago, reasoning that he found the summaries “pretty anecdotal.”
Nothing is more useless than deliberately ignored facts. Summing up multi-year investigations as “anecdotal” goes far beyond willful ignorance into dangerously-smug territory. At least when FBI director James Comey said he hadn’t bothered reading the CIA Torture Report, he had the excuse that the info included did not directly reference his area of control.
Sessions doesn’t have this excuse. But his focus isn’t on what’s wrong with America’s law enforcement. He’s only interested in what’s wrong with Americans. He wants tougher sentencing and tougher laws. He’s looking at moving forward with federal prosecutions targeting legal marijuana sales. He wants to ease restrictions on asset forfeiture. He has shown no concern about the policed, only for the police.
Sessions said police officers in Chicago were arresting people less frequently, which he speculated may be out of fear their interactions could be recorded and spread on the internet.
“The officer feared for his observation.” That’s the jist of this statement by Sessions. He may think this is a perfectly acceptable reason for Chicago PD officers to not do the job they’re paid to do, but only a coward would shy away from doing their job because it might be witnessed by others. What a bunch of shit.
But back to the “anecdotal” shrug off of the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s work. Here’s some of the stuff Sessions has the audacity to call “anecdotal.”
From the DOJ investigation of the Ferguson PD:
We spent, collectively, approximately 100 person-days onsite in Ferguson. We participated in ride-alongs with on-duty officers, reviewed over 35,000 pages of police records as well as thousands of emails and other electronic materials provided by the police department. Enlisting the assistance of statistical experts, we analyzed FPD’s data on stops, searches, citations, and arrests, as well as data collected by the municipal court. We observed four separate sessions of Ferguson Municipal Court, interviewing dozens of people charged with local offenses, and we reviewed third-party studies regarding municipal court practices in Ferguson and St. Louis County more broadly. As in all of our investigations, we sought to engage the local community, conducting hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews of individuals who reside in Ferguson or who have had interactions with the police department. We contacted ten neighborhood associations and met with each group that responded to us, as well as several other community groups and advocacy organizations. Throughout the investigation, we relied on two police chiefs who accompanied us to Ferguson and who themselves interviewed City and police officials, spoke with community members, and reviewed FPD policies and incident reports.
Also “anecdotal:” (from the Chicago investigation)
First, we reviewed thousands of pages of documents provided to us by CPD, IPRA, and the City, including policies, procedures, training plans, Department orders and memos, internal and external reports, and more. We also obtained access to the City’s entire misconduct complaint database and data from all reports filled out following officers’ use of force. From there, we reviewed a randomized, representative sample of force reports and investigative files for incidents that occurred between January 2011 and April 2016, as well as additional incident reports and investigations. Overall, we reviewed over 170 officer-involved shooting investigations, and documents related to over 425 incidents of less-lethal force.
We also spent extensive time in Chicago—over 300 person-days—meeting with community members and City officials, and interviewing current and former CPD officers and IPRA investigators. In addition to speaking with the Superintendent and other CPD leadership, we met with the command staff of several specialized units, divisions, and departments. We toured CPD’s training facilities and observed training programs. We also visited each of Chicago’s 22 police districts, where we addressed roll call, spoke with command staff and officers, and conducted over 60 ride-alongs with officers. We met several times with Chicago’s officer union, Lodge No. 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the sergeants’, lieutenants’, and captains’ unions. All told, we heard from over 340 individual CPD members, and 23 members of IPRA’s staff.
Our findings were also significantly informed by our conversations with members of the Chicago community. We met with over ninety community organizations, including non-profits, advocacy and legal organizations, and faith-based groups focused on a wide range of issues. We participated in several community forums in different neighborhoods throughout Chicago where we heard directly from the family members of individuals who were killed by CPD officers and others who shared their insights and experiences. We also met with several local researchers, academics, and lawyers who have studied CPD extensively for decades. Most importantly, however, we heard directly from individuals who live and work throughout the City about their interactions with CPD officers. Overall, we talked to approximately a thousand community members. We received nearly 600 phone calls, emails, and letters from individuals who were eager to provide their experiences and insights.
The DOJ Civil Rights Division won’t be given this long of an investigative leash under Sessions. The Trump Administration is already planning to cut this division’s budget, and the man at the top of the organizational chart is just going to dismiss the findings without even reading them. Sessions says he’s “not sure” if he’ll pursue a consent agreement with the Chicago PD, which strongly suggests he won’t. He seems more concerned about the criminal activity in the city and fails to see how unconstitutional and abusive policing may be making it worse.
Police accountability is off the table for the next four years minimum. Whoever inherits this mess will have to make up a lot of lost ground. Under this administration, law enforcement officers will be untouchable, as least at the federal level. The groundwork has begun on Police State, USA.