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Attorney General's Memo Indicates Trump's DOJ Is Only Interested In The Blue Side Of The Justice Equation

Here comes the rollback. As President Trump made clear with his pick for Attorney General, the days of police reform are over. The administration is only willing to put its weight behind efforts that give cops more power, weapons, and funding. Everything else — including several years-worth of consent agreements with dysfunctional police departments — is unimportant.

The first wave of Trump’s planned United Police State was a series of divisive directives seeking to bolster support for law enforcement by informing them the president had their back and anyone who didn’t was simply wrong.

A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division — which has entered into several consent decrees with police departments engaged in unconstitutional policing — is seeing its budget cut. The “law and order” focus of the Trump/Sessions DOJ is taking shape.

Via Reason’s CJ Ciaramella comes the next step in the Making America Great Again:Blue Lives Matter program — the DOJ’s courtroom announcement [PDF] that it will be rewriting (or at least reconsidering) its recent consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department. Accompanying the DOJ’s request for a delay in proceedings is a memo [PDF] from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which spells out the Department’s new priorities.

The Department will use its resources to effectively promote a peaceful and lawful society, where the civil rights of all persons are valued and protected. To that end, I expect that all Department components will adhere to and support principles that will advance those two goals, including, but not limited to the following:

The safety and protection of the public is the paramount concern and duty of law enforcement officials.

Law enforcement officers perform uniquely dangerous tasks, and the Department should help promote officer safety, officer morale, and public respect for their work.

In the context of the DOJ’s courtroom request for a continuance to examine the consent decree in light of Sessions’ new memo, this likely means the DOJ will be looking to serve law enforcement first and the general public second. Note the “uniquely dangerous” phrase, which suggests the DOJ will be cutting officers more slack on force deployment since they’re apparently in near-constant “fear for their safety.”

Local law enforcement must protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public.

This is a nice touch, but it’s the only thing in there that nods to citizens’ rights, rather than simply granting a powerful subset of government employees even more power. That the Baltimore PD consent decree appears to be on the verge of being rolled back indicates — along with the following bullet point — Sessions is pulling the DOJ out of the civil rights business completely.

Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing. It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.

The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe.

This is the “bad apple” argument, reduced to a bullet point in Sessions’ “Bootlicking Best Practices” memo.

The collection and analysis of timely, reliable statistics on crime and criminals are essential for effective law enforcement strategies.

This suggests we’ll only be seeing the FBI’s roundup of crime stats from now on. Years after announcing it would do so, the DOJ finally got around to tracking the number of people killed by on-duty police officers. The voluntary system that never worked was replaced with one with a bit more coercion. This appears to be headed for an early retirement.

Recruitment and training of law enforcement officers should focus on making law enforcement a rewarding career, and attracting and retaining well-qualified personnel.

I don’t have any argument with this point, other than the fact that, in this context, it means law enforcement pay increases will be uncoupled from increased accountability or transparency. The DOJ is getting out of the oversight business. Presumably any members of its civil rights division that survive culling will be expected to don Go Blue! cheerleading outfits and assist the other federal agencies (DHS, CBP, ICE, etc.) with the compilation of their “dangerous foreigners” lists.

Collaboration between federal and local law enforcement is important, and jurisdictions whose law enforcement agencies accept funding from the Department are expected to adhere to the Department’s grant conditions as well as to all federal laws.

It’s all wrapped up with an implicit threat of funding cuts and grant denials should local agencies police themselves too harshly or refuse to play along with the feds’ increased immigration enforcement efforts.

The Department of Justice is being retooled to protect a single side of the justice equation. We may have a new president, but the old “Dept. of Just Us” jokes will return from their brief hibernation.

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Author: Tim Cushing

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