The incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland where two unarmed black men died as a result of their interactions with police spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, riots, looting and violence against law enforcement.
The Department of Justice under Barack Obama decided it was time to crack down on what it saw as an epidemic of police brutality against black citizens, launching a series of investigations and ultimately “agreements” with local police departments to stem the tide.
Some saw this as an egregious overreach, and an attempt to “federalize” local law enforcement. Apparently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions may agree.
The Washington Post reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.
In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.
The memo was released not long before the department’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone until at least the end of June a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Baltimore Police Department that was announced just days before President Trump took office.
Naturally this decision does not sit well with civil rights activists.
Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis NAACP, questioned whether the department would also review investigations where officers were not deemed to be at fault.
“We’ve got just as many times that the Justice Department was called in to look at an incident and they found no probable cause for charges,” said Pruitt, who was among the first to call for a Justice Department investigation into the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. “Are they going to go back and look at those? The attorney general wants to re-examine something? Hell, I’ve got some stuff he can take a look at!”
But wait a minute…if the Justice Department was called in and found no probable cause to charge the officer, maybe that’s because there was no probable cause.
Bad cops need to be punished for bad behavior; no question about it.
But we’ve already lived through the myth of “hands up, don’t shoot” and its violent aftermath, and finally we have someone in the Department of Justice who isn’t going to fan the flames any longer.