One of the key pillars of the opposition against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation was that his record indicates that he would be “bad” for civil rights at the head of the Department of Justice. Recent reports suggest that was more than just partisan hyperbole as AG Sessions said the Department of Justice will be less concerned about civil rights violations committed by police than they were in the past.
During a meeting with Sessions’s counterparts at the state level, he expressed his intention to curtail the efforts of the DoJ’s Civil Rights division to go after police departments accused of violating citizen’s rights.
“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,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“So we’re going to try to pull back on this,” he told a meeting of the nation’s state attorneys general in Washington.
He added caveats that said they would not be “insensitive to civil rights or human rights” but that his focus would be make sure that people in “poor and minority communities feel free from the threat of violent crime.” He called for more “effective” policing. He also said he believes the purpose of the DoJ is to be “the leading advocate for law enforcement in America.”
Of course, one could argue that the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division, which former Attorney General Eric Holder called “the crown jewel” of his department, helps in that regard. For example, the DoJ investigations into the incidents that led to the Ferguson riots discovered things that could make both sides of the debate happy. They found that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that former officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of the unarmed Michael Brown was anything other than justified use of force. They also found that the Ferguson Police Department discriminated against black citizens and abused their power.
Attorney General Sessions, however, was not impressed with their work. When he was asked by the Huffington Post about these reports, AG Sessions said he never even bothered to read them. “We had summaries of [the reports],” he said, “and some of it was pretty anecdotal, and not so scientifically based.” (Though, he admitted that “science” may yet prove him wrong on his crusade against the legalization of marijuana.)
Of course, this is nonsense, because the investigation was a comprehensive review of Ferguson’s own data and police reports. Other investigations, such as the one released in the final days of the Obama era focusing on the Chicago Police Department was a 14-month long effort that revealed “patterns of unconstitutional conduct.”
All of this suggests that the Sessions DoJ will be just as bad for civil rights as everyone suggested.
You can watch his full remarks to the meeting below:
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Featured image via screengrab