Tak­ing the cuffs off the cops

Obama-era con­sent de­crees tarred po­lice as racist for the mis­takes of a few

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Al­fred S. Reg­n­ery Al­fred S. Reg­n­ery is chair­man of the Law En­force­ment Le­gal De­fense Fund. He served in the Depart­ment of Justice dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Obama Justice Depart­ment made a habit of fed­er­al­iz­ing lo­cal po­lice forces by threat­en­ing lit­i­ga­tion and se­cur­ing a set­tle­ment in the form of a con­sent de­cree. That turned out to be an ex­er­cise in an­tipo­lice bias which, hap­pily, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is now re­vers­ing.

Po­lice are the agents of govern­ment most of­ten en­coun­tered by Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, and the most highly re­spected. Ev­ery ju­ris­dic­tion in the coun­try has some sort of law en­force­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion, and vir­tu­ally ev­ery Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen comes into con­tact with a po­lice of­fi­cer nearly ev­ery day. Ac­cord­ingly, fol­low­ing the Founders’ ideas about fed­er­al­ism, lo­cal law en­force­ment de­part­ments are ex­actly that — lo­cal, as they should be.

The left has al­ways dis­liked, and dis­trusted, the po­lice. As with other es­tab­lish­ments that pre­serve cul­ture and civil so­ci­ety, law en­force­ment, ac­cord­ing to the left, should be cen­trally con­trolled by bu­reau­cratic ex­perts in Washington. To many on the left, the po­lice are lit­tle more than a bunch of bru­tal gun-tot­ing, racist ya­hoos.

From time to time through his pres­i­dency, Barack Obama brought up the sub­ject him­self — pushed, no doubt, by his left-wing base. Just one ex­am­ple is the re­port of his hand-picked Task Force on 21st Cen­tury Polic­ing, pub­lished in May 2015, which urged Washington to fed­er­al­ize po­lice train­ing and prac­tices, via the use of fed­eral law­suits, grants and threats to cut fed­eral aid. Al Sharp­ton — one of Mr. Obama’ s most fre­quent White House vis­i­tors — called for fed­er­al­iz­ing law en­force­ment dur­ing the Bal­ti­more riots, de­mand­ing that the Justice Depart­ment “take over polic­ing in this coun­try.”

Oth­ers, in­clud­ing left-wing mega-donor Ge­orge Soros, have lent their voices and money to the cause. Mr. Soros’ Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tion has sug­gested tak­ing ad­van­tage of po­lice-re­lated deaths such as in Fer­gu­son, Mo, Staten Is­land and Bal­ti­more to push for na­tion­al­iza­tion. But with Mr. Obama gone and Jeff Ses­sions at the helm of the Depart­ment of Justice, Messrs. Soros, Sharp­ton and oth­ers might as well be whistling in the wind.

In one of his first speeches as at­tor­ney gen­eral, Mr. Ses­sions said that the role of the fed­eral govern­ment should be “to help po­lice de­part­ments get bet­ter, not to di­min­ish their ef­fec­tive­ness.” Con­sent de­crees with the Depart­ment of Justice are of­ten de­mor­al­iz­ing to law en­force­ment, he said, and were detri­men­tal to ef­fi­cient polic­ing and of­ten put pub­lic safety in jeop­ardy. “Un­for­tu­nately,” Mr. Ses­sions said, “in re­cent years law en­force­ment as a whole has been un­fairly ma­ligned and blamed for the crimes and un­ac­cept­able deeds of a few bad ac­tors. Amid this in­tense pub­lic scru­tiny and crit­i­cism, morale has gone down, while the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers killed in the line of duty has gone up.”

Most of the two-dozen in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­lice de­part­ments started dur­ing the Obama years were premised on civil rights concerns, par­tic­u­larly those re­sult­ing from dis­pro­por­tion­ate ar­rests of mi­nori­ties, and were aimed at in­ject­ing fed­eral con­trol and su­per­vi­sion of civil rights issue, even though much more than race was at stake — prob­lems of­ten in­volv­ing eco­nomic, so­cial and his­tor­i­cal concerns.

Garry McCarthy, the former su­per­in­ten­dent of the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment (who Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired af­ter the up­roar in­volv­ing the Laquan McDon­ald case), crit­i­cized the Justice Depart­ment re­port in­volv­ing the Chicago po­lice for be­ing to­tally pre­dictable and based on Washington bu­reau­crats’ view of polic­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Mr. McCarthy, in the eyes of the Obama Depart­ment of Justice, if more blacks are ar­rested than whites, the rea­son must be the in­her­ent racism of the sys­tem and the racist at­ti­tudes of in­di­vid­ual cops. “DOJ’s view,” Mr. McCarthy said, “would be that in Englewood, our most vi­o­lent com­mu­nity and which is 97 per­cent African-Amer­i­can, we should be stop­ping 32 per­cent of white folks — which is not go­ing to have an im­pact on crime. … What we call data-driven polic­ing, the Depart­ment of Justice calls sys­tem­atic racism.”

Mr. Ses­sions’ crit­i­cism that these con­sent de­crees are ex­pen­sive is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Con­sent de­crees are laden with man­dates for train­ing (in­clud­ing things like sensitivity train­ing), re­quire­ments for mas­sive amounts of data col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis, changes in su­per­vi­sion re­quire­ments, re­view of pro­mo­tions pol­icy and other bu­reau­cratic man­dates, all of which cost not only money, but time that would other­wise be spent con­trol­ling crime and pro­tect­ing pub­lic safety.

Justice Depart­ment con­sent de­crees is­sued dur­ing the Obama years were largely po­lit­i­cal state­ments aimed at sat­is­fy­ing the Demo­cratic base rather than be­ing le­git­i­mate cri­tiques of po­lice depart­ment pol­icy and pro­ce­dures. With the Obama crowd gone, noth­ing could be more timely, and more ap­pro­pri­ate, than a re­view and, to the ex­tent pos­si­ble, the de-im­ple­men­ta­tion of these man­dates.


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