Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man accused of a long history of racism, has decided to “pull back” on the Obama Administration’s efforts to sue police departments who commit civil rights abuses. Under Obama the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted many investigations into police departments, some of which yielded solid evidence of endemic abuses of minorities.
The Obama DOJ sued the police departments that could proven to violate the civil rights of minority groups. Now, the Donald Trump DOJ will drop those suits and allow police departments to resume a culture of impunity.
Sessions explains “We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that.”
What would really help police departments be effective agents of positive change in the communities they serve would be to root out corruption, abuse, and brutality.
An Administration that cracks down on police racism and brutality sends a clear message that those tactics are not tolerated. It lends credibility to the many excellent police departments in America. When people know that corrupt police departments will be held accountable, they know that they can count on their local police to be fair. Departments that pass rigorous DOJ investigations can inspire the trust of their citizens.
It is a mistake to claim that actively protecting civil rights “diminishes police departments’ effectiveness” as Sessions suggests. Effective police officers know how to confront crime without abusing citizens’ rights. Effective policing does not breed resentment towards the police and criminal justice system. Effective policing means communities trust the police to keep them safe, they do not fear violence at the hands of the men and women sworn to protect them.
As Attorney General Sessions is responsible for ensuring that law enforcement is effective within the framework of the Constitution. Lawsuits against individual police departments brought by the Obama DOJ allege Constitutional violations. If Sessions is willing to stand aside and allow rotten police departments to abuse citizens’ Constitutional rights, he has no place in our government.