“CHICAGO ― In the final months of the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division scrambled to complete its biggest-ever investigation of a city police department: a 13-month probe of Chicago’s 12,000-strong police force that wrapped up just a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
For more than a year, the division’s lawyers reviewed thousands of Chicago Police Department documents, visited all 22 police districts, went on 60 ride-alongs, reviewed 170 police shooting files, examined over 425 incidents of less-lethal force, interviewed 340 department members and talked to about 1,000 Chicago residents.
Their final report, issued Jan. 13, recognized the tough job officers had in Chicago as they dealt with spiking gun violence, and praised the “diligent efforts and brave actions of countless” officers. But a “breach in trust” eroded Chicago’s ability to prevent crime, because officers were able to escape accountability when they broke the law, the report found. Because “trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined,” the report found “broad, fundamental reform” was needed in Chicago.
Without a formal legal agreement to reform — known as a consent decree — and independent monitoring, the report concluded, reform efforts in Chicago were “not likely to be successful.”
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, disagrees. In recent weeks, Sessions has expressed deep skepticism about the role of the federal government in fixing broken police departments, leaving serious doubts about the ultimate outcome of the Justice Department’s work in Chicago.
Sessions wants the Justice Department to serve as the “leading advocate for law enforcement in America.” While admitting he hadn’t read the full Chicago report, he called it “anecdotal” and “not so scientifically based.” Earlier this month in Baltimore, a Justice Department lawyer said Sessions had “grave concerns” about an agreement previously reached between that city and the Obama administration. A federal judge signed off on the deal over Sessions’ objections.
In an interview with a conservative radio host this month, Sessions seemed to suggest that Justice Department investigations and consent decrees were resulting in “big crime increases.” In an op-ed for USA Today last week, Sessions wrote that consent decrees could amount to “harmful federal intrusion” that could “cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals.” There’s too much focus on “a small number of police who are bad actors,” Sessions wrote, and “too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”
Chicago has a serious violent crime problem. Last year was the deadliest in the city in two decades, with 762 homicides. But supporters of police reform like Jonathan Smith, a former official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that Sessions was “simply wrong” to suggest that crime goes up as a result of reform (or, in Chicago’s case, an investigation). DOJ investigations can increase community confidence in police departments and make people safer, Smith argued.
Lorie Fridell, a criminologist and police bias expert from whom the Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force solicited information for its report released last year, said DOJ investigations not only help to usher in badly need reforms to the specific departments probed, but other departments also rely on the reports to determine if their own departments are meeting constitutional standards.
“I think it’s very unfortunate the DOJ is no longer going to prioritize police reform,” Fridell said. ”The future of police reform is therefore going to have to come from the ground up. It’s going to be important for concerned individuals to demand high-quality policing.”
Read the complete HuffPost article at the above link. And, for those of you who would like to be better informed than AG “Gonzo Apocalypto” about the need for serious police reform in Chicago, you can read the complete DOJ Civil Rights Division report here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925846/download.
Sen. Liz Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, and others who opposed Sessions’s nomination to be AG, and told the truth about his white nationalist views (which he tried to conceal/downplay during his confirmation hearing, in addition to lying under oath about his Russian contacts) were right!