Despite some uncomfortable moments from Senators Al Franken and Patrick Leahy, Senator Jeff Sessions will likely be confirmed as the next Attorney General of the United States. As the head of the Department of Justice, it seems very likely that the DOJ’s Civil Rights division will investigate law enforcement with much less vigor that it has under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.
During the Obama administration, the Civil Rights division — which Attorney General Eric Holder repeatedly referred to as the DOJ’s “crown jewel” — opened 25 investigations of law enforcement agencies, resulting in 19 agreements and 14 consent decrees. But President-elect Donald Trump has called the push for greater police accountability a “war on police,” and Sessions, who if confirmed would be in charge of overseeing such investigations, has said they are an intrusion on local authority and an overreach by the DOJ.
“One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees,” he wrote in the introduction to a 2008 policy paper on the practice. “Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process.”
Immediately after the election, Sessions “tore into” prosecutors from that division at a hearing literally titled “the War on Police.” During the campaign he frequently echoed the president-elect’s rhetoric about how criminal justice reform efforts are “anti-police” and hurting morale amongst law enforcement officials.
“A slew of sheriffs’ groups, ex-U.S. attorneys and former top law enforcement officials have endorsed Sessions to lead the Justice Department, including Louis Freeh, who served as FBI director for former President Bill Clinton,” Politico reported.
During the hearings Tuesday, Sessions often repeated his commitment to equal protection under the law, however it will be up to Sessions and his deputies’ discretion about whether or not to empower or weaken what AG Holder called the department’s “crown jewel.” If his campaign rhetoric was based in truth, it seems far more likely that it will be the latter.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.