CHICAGO – The Trump administration informed a federal judge in Chicago on Friday that it’s seeking to scuttle a plan negotiated between the nation’s third-largest city and the state of Illinois that envisions far-reaching reforms of Chicago’s 12,000-officer police force under close federal court supervision, reported Bloomington Pantagraph.
“The truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem.”
– Jeff Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted the roughly 200-page plan, also known as a consent decree, because of the court oversight. In a statement announcing the intervention, he offered a full-throated defense of Chicago police, saying they must take the lead in stemming city violence.
“There is a misperception that police are the problem and that their failures, their lack of training, and their abuses create crime,” Sessions said. “But the truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem.”
An 11-page Justice Department statement of interest — filed with Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who must grant the proposal final approval — says the reform plan, as it is, would deprive police of flexibility to do their jobs right. And it criticizes criteria in the plan meant to assess police compliance as vague, according to Pantagraph.
It asks Dow “to allow state and local officials — and Chicago’s brave front-line police officers — to engage in flexible and localized efforts to advance the goal of safe, effective, and constitutional policing in Chicago.”
The filing and Sessions’ comments came a week after jurors convicted white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder for shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 as he walked away from police with a knife.
The shooting sparked outrage by activists. Moreover, it led to an Obama administration investigation of Chicago police, which was followed months later by a damning report that found widespread police abuses.
The Department of Justice Friday simultaneously announced the creation of a “Gun Crimes Prosecution Team” at Chicago’s U.S. attorney’s office focused on gun crimes. Furthermore, ATF will assign five violent-crime coordinators to work with federal prosecutors.
Responding to the announcements, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Matt McGrath, said the city appreciated the additional resources, “but we don’t appreciate efforts … to impede our public safety reforms or inhibit our efforts to rebuild the bonds of trust between officers and residents.”
Illinois Attorney Lisa Madigan — without objection from Emanuel — sued the city last year to ensure any police reforms would be overseen by a judge. That killed a draft plan negotiated with Trump’s administration that didn’t envision a court role in reforming the department. Consequently, it ultimately led to successful talks to create the current plan.
The reform plan now on the table foresees far stricter rules on the use of force by officers. One chilling provision requires officers to file paperwork each time they point their weapons, even if they don’t fire. This alone will create danger for cops who will leave firearms holstered in dangerous situations in order to avoid “writing paper.” As usual, non-cops simply have no idea how often police officers pull weapons to maintain safety in potentially lethal circumstances.
“When arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged.”
– Jeff Sessions
Sessions again echoed President Donald Trump, who told officers at a convention in Orlando on Monday that a three-year-old agreement between Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to curb stop-and-frisk procedures by police prevented officers from doing their jobs.
“When police are restrained from using lawfully established policies … when arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged,” Sessions said. “There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement.”
Chicago officials and the ACLU have said those and similar claims by Trump administration officials are exaggerated, get the data on crime in Chicago wrong and misstate the underlying causes of crime.
“There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement.”
– Jeff Sessions
Karen Sheley, the director of the police practices project at the ACLU of Illinois, said the move Friday by the Trump administration to sink a plan in the works for over a year was “a last-minute political play at the expense of real people in our city.”
“The Trump Administration and Sessions’ Department of Justice have never attempted to learn about the problems in Chicago or what reform is necessary,” Sheley said in a Friday statement.
Regardless of Sheley’s critique, the Trump administration has indeed proven it knows how to talk to cops and take advice from true experts in the field. And that is what they’ve done.