On his way out the door, Ses­sions takes aim at po­lice re­form ef­forts

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - Sun-Times Staff

In one of his fi­nal acts be­fore be­ing forced out as at­tor­ney gen­eral by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Jeff Ses­sions signed an or­der lim­it­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s abil­ity to use con­sent de­crees — sim­i­lar to the one pend­ing in Chicago — to ad­just the be­hav­ior of lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments ac­cused of sys­temic civil rights abuses.

Un­der the or­der signed Wed­nes­day by Ses­sions, top po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees must sign off on the deals in­stead of ca­reer lawyers, ac­cord­ing to a New York Times re­port pub­lished late Thurs­day.

Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials will need more ev­i­dence be­yond un­con­sti­tu­tional be­hav­ior to ne­go­ti­ate the court-en­forced de­crees, and end dates for the deals must be pre­de­ter­mined, the Times re­ported.

Ses­sions has slammed con­sent de­crees — which were pur­sued ag­gres­sively by for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Jus­tice Depart­ment — as a hand­i­cap on lo­cal law en­force­ment.

Ses­sions, who signed his or­der the same day Trump forced him to re­sign, had pre­vi­ously or­dered a re­view of such agree­ments with cities in­clud­ing Chicago.

As writ­ten, Ses­sions’ or­der does not ap­pear to threaten the con­sent de­cree soon ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized for the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment, which was ne­go­ti­ated by the city and Illi­nois At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lisa Madi­gan’s of­fice.

Of­fi­cials from those of­fices, as well as the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, did not im­me­di­ately re­turn re­quests for com­ment late Thurs­day.

Chicago’s con­sent de­cree is a set­tle­ment be­tween the city and Madi­gan’s of­fice, in­tended to ad­dress the pat­tern of civil rights abuses by the CPD as re­ported in a Jus­tice Depart­ment probe that be­gan af­ter the 2014 shoot­ing of Laquan McDon­ald by Of­fi­cer Ja­son Van Dyke.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Robert Dow will make the fi­nal se­lec­tion on the en­force­ment of Chicago’s de­cree, with the city re­cently propos­ing the an­nual cost of an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing team at about $2.85 mil­lion.

The mon­i­tor­ing team will work with the depart­ment, rec­om­mend­ing re­forms and mak­ing sure the depart­ment falls in line with the man­dates stated in the con­sent de­cree.

Vanita Gupta, a key Obama-era Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial in the Chicago in­ves­ti­ga­tion, called Ses­sions’ or­der “a slap in the face to the ded­i­cated ca­reer staff of the depart­ment who work tire­lessly to en­force our na­tion’s civil rights laws.”

“These agree­ments have ju­di­cial over­sight and are used only when there is clear, over­whelm­ing and well-doc­u­mented ev­i­dence,” said Gupta, now pres­i­dent of the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civil and Hu­man Rights. “The ra­tio­nale for such over­sight has not dis­ap­peared.”

GETTY IM­AGES FILE PHOTO

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was forced to re­sign Wed­nes­day.

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