Jeff Sessions Is Dismantling the Justice Department’s Community Policing Initiative When We Need It Most

As St. Louis and the rest of the country reacted to the acquittal of the police officer who killed Anthony Lamar Smith last Friday, the Justice Department had its focus on something else. While we expressed outrage at continued state violence and another fatal police shooting of a Black man with no accountability, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did just the opposite.

On Friday, DOJ announced the end of a community policing program as we know it. The program, which once helped St. Louis County police address racial profiling and other localities address issues like excessive use of force, is no more. Instead, DOJ will now assist local agencies in “fight[ing] violent crime,” aka, Session’s failed drug war agenda.

The Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance, or “collaborative reform” for short, was started in 2011 at the request of local law enforcement. The DOJ program provided resources to law enforcement agencies that were experiencing serious policing failures and reached out to the agency for help. These police departments were plagued by excessive force, biased policing, and failed police-community relations.

As the former head of the COPS office, Ron Davis, described, “[collaborative] reform worked because it was driven by local police, elected [and] community leaders who wanted stronger relationships [and] safer cities.” This effort was far from the “federal intrusion” that Sessions uses to describe the previous administration’s oversight of local policing. Police departments and local communities sought out and volunteered for this federal program. And they were right to do so.

The police departments benefiting from collaborative reform were often responsible for fatal police shootings that garnered national attention. We are talking about departments in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Dontre Hamilton was fatally shot by police; Saint Anthony, Minnesota, where Philando Castile met the same fate; and North Charleston, South Carolina, where Walter Scott was also fatally gunned down by a police offer.

The collaborative reform cities that were waiting on DOJ’s recommendations, like Milwaukee, have been told to stop holding their breath. The reports are not coming. A draft of the Milwaukee report shows just what is at stake with the loss of these federal resources. The report revealed that “MPD members generally do not understand their roles in community policing.” The report also found that “MPD’s traffic enforcement practices have a disparate impact on the African-American community” and the department “does not have specific guidelines for conducting use of force investigations.”

For DOJ to now deny critical policing resources to troubled agencies and communities is appalling. Police departments and local officials asked for federal help so they could attempt to “strengthen and build the mutual trust” between law enforcement and communities in the midst of tragedy, often a fatal police shooting. And for Sessions to say he now wants the program to “fight violent crime” is ridiculous. Fatal police shootings can be violent crimes; they just tend to happen without consequence as we saw most recently in St. Louis.

So what can be done with police practices and a justice system that continues to fail this country? Let’s keep organizing, advocating, and litigating, making sure our voices are heard. Let’s tell our local police departments that we will work with them to ensure constitutional policing practices; that we will hold them accountable even if this Justice Department will not.

View comments (13)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

In 1792 Thomas Jefferson warned us - "If we allow the rich, banks, and corporations into our elections we would lose our democracy."

In 1916 Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said - "We can have democracy or billionaires, but we can't have both".

On January 21, 2010 five corrupt Republican Supreme Court Justices betrayed the USA and ruled that one billionaire can secretly buy every politician and every election in the USA. That "Citizens United" ruling created an Oligarchy of Billionaire Parasites.

On January 6, 2017 corrupt political hacks in the Electoral College betrayed their country and in violation of their reason for existence, elected a man who was unqualified and unfit to hold any public office and who was known by the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA to be "Under the Influence of a Foreign Power." That historic act of betrayal ratified the earlier Supreme Court betrayal.

So now legally, THE USA IS A PARASITIC OLIGARCHY owned by a few billionaires who have made the Republican Party their political tool.

This Parasitic Oligarchy and the Republican Parasite Party have become an Organized Crime Syndicate that legally bought and now own 32 State Legislatures, 33 State Governors, the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch of our federal government, and a new 5 man majority on the Supreme Court. This Criminal Syndicate hates democracy, fairness, and equality and their declared goal is to use the their hegemony to destroy every social program and consumer protection law created for the benefit of the 99% of Americans in the last 100 years. They intend to destroy all traces of democracy in the USA.

The Republican Parasites will never give up their position of domination, and to harden that hegemony they will pass laws to numerically stack the deck against anyone who challenges their authority and ownership - and their Supreme Court will declare those laws "legal".

Jefferson and Brandeis were right, and AMERICANS HAVE LOST THEIR DEMOCRACY. And the corporate press is dead-silent about it.

Anonymous

I know the ACLU is about freedom of speech and I applaud that but most of these comments are useless, ignorant and disgusting. How do they relate to the article? What do they contribute? Interesting article, Ms. Bennett, thanks.

Anonymous

Get free Walmart Gift Cards

Pages

Stay Informed