Ses­sions reins in U.S. sway over po­lice

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

Civil rights lead­ers lashed out Fri­day at Jeff Ses­sions, who in one of his last acts as at­tor­ney gen­eral ap­proved an or­der restrict­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to en­force changes at state and lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies that are ac­cused of abuse.

In a memo re­leased late Thurs­day by the Jus­tice De­part­ment and praised by po­lice or­ga­ni­za­tions, Ses­sions added new re­quire­ments to court-en­forced “con­sent de­crees” reached with state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties. Ses­sions signed the memo Wed­nes­day, the day he re­signed.

It says that two se­nior po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees at the Jus­tice De­part­ment must ap­prove al­most all fu­ture agree­ments. The de­crees also are to have a “sun­set” pro­vi­sion, lim­it­ing them to no more than three years. And Jus­tice at­tor­neys now must show “ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors” be­yond demon­strat­ing that po­lice ac­tions were un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Jus­tice De­part­ment opened 25 in­ves­ti­ga­tions into law en­force­ment agen­cies in cities in­clud­ing Chicago, New Or­leans, Cleve­land and Fer­gu­son, Mo., and was en­forc­ing 14 con­sent de­crees and other agree­ments.

“This memo seals Ses­sions’s legacy as an ob­struc­tion­ist when it comes to ad­vanc­ing jus­tice, pro­mot­ing re­form and pro­tect­ing the rights of vic­tims of dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said Kris­ten Clarke, pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights Un­der Law.

But Chuck Can­ter­bury, the na­tional pres­i­dent of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, said that fu­ture con­sent de­crees will give more re­spon­si­bil­ity to lo­cal de­part­ments, in­clude the views of rank-and-file of­fi­cers and be “more col­lab­o­ra­tive.”

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