It really, finally, truly set in earlier this month when Attorney General Jefferson Sessions set his focus on police reform and the agreements reached between the Department of Justice’s Civil Right’s division and local police departments, 14 agreements that were made following 25 investigations into these departments, during the Obama administration.
On several recent occasions, the AG has made startling statements about crime and violence in America. Statements that are full of half-truths, at best, and lies, at worse. In an op-ed for USA Today, Sessions wrote, “Violent crime is surging in American cities[…]Yet amid this plague of violence, too much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals.”
First, there is no “plague of violence”. In fact, violent crime in America has been in steady decline for the last 26 years, and at or near record lows in many to most cities. Those are the facts. And what they mean is that Sessions and his DOJ aren’t interested in facts, but narratives. What kind of narratives? Let’s look at the last part of Sessions’ statement: “too much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals.” What is “too much”? And how is it possible to for citizens to care “too much” about abuses that kill unarmed and innocent people on a regular basis?
By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor
The second thing that’s so troubling about Sessions' rhetoric in this op-ed and in his recent statements, is his complete denial of or ignorance to the concept of cultural within institutions. No one denies that abuse of power via police brutality isn’t committed by every, or even the majority of, cops. For example, the Chicago Tribune reports that within the Chicago PD, only 124 of the city’s 12,000 person police force, are responsible for 30 percent of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009. What this suggests is that a comparatively small number of police are “bad actors” committing crimes against the community over and over. Crimes that the city paid over $34 million to settle. However, despite these hefty payouts, Chicago police are rarely disciplined. Effectively failing to correct abusive behavior and singling to officers that their conduct and violence against citizens is fine. And not only is it fine, but the city will foot the bill for any repercussions. This is what maintains the CULTURE of abuse of power.
And that’s well before we get to police officers, presumably the “good ones”, who cover up for other officers doing wrong. And the Justice Departments’ own findings of systematic racial bias within PD's in cities like Baltimore.
No, Sessions does not think that cities essentially wasting tens of millions of dollars in misconduct settlements is a problem. And calling attention to why those settlements were made is doing “too much”.
In attempt to ignore the millions of dollars cities are having to pay in these settlements against abusive and homicide cops, Sessions has warned that police reform runs the risk of reducing “morale” at police departments. I.e. police won’t be happy to work if they’re held accountable for their actions and held to a higher standard. Sessions really does not want to risk this, no matter how many black bodies lay in the street because of it. Or, maybe, because of how many black bodies lay in the street because of it.
Luckily for the countless Americans who remained optimistically hopefully for police reform, Sessions recent attempt to stop the aforementioned agreements for police reform at certain departments known as consent decrees was thwarted when a federal judge denied Sessions’ department to suspend and review the reforms for 90 days. For now, the next reform project up, at the Baltimore PD will go on as planned.
But law enforcement isn’t the only place AG Jeff Sessions is attempting to attack POC through. The DOJ seems to be solely focused on immigration reform that has targeted thousands of undocumented immigrants WITHOUT criminal records, including the tentatively protected group of minors and young people who were brought to this country by their parents, called the Dreamers/DACA recipients. Contrary to Donald Trump’s campaign and verbal promises as President, that ICE and the DOJ were only targeting violent and criminal undocumented persons. Not that anyone doing some critical thinking believes anything from this Administration, but it’s alarming to note that young people brought here without proper procedures, through no fault of their own, and who have actually complied with US law by registering as an undocumented person, are being deported under the guise of “violent criminals only”.
Image via Getty
*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK's editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at email@example.com.