Violent crime is surging in American cities. To combat this wave of violence and protect our communities, we need proactive policing. Yet in some cities, such policing is diminishing — with predictably dire results.
In Chicago, arrests have fallen 36% since 2014 to the lowest level in at least 16 years. Last year, they fell in every major crime category, and they fell in every single district in the city. To put that in perspective, out of more than 500 non-fatal shootings in early 2016, only seven resulted in any sort of arrest. That’s 1%. Not surprisingly, as arrest rates plummeted in those years, the murder rate nearly doubled. Meanwhile in Baltimore, while arrests have fallen 45% in the past two years, homicides have risen 78%, and shootings have more than doubled.
Yet amid this plague of violence, too much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals. And too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.
The Department of Justice agrees with the need to rebuild public confidence in law enforcement through common-sense reforms, such as de-escalation training, and we will punish any police conduct that violates civil rights. But such reforms must promote public safety and avoid harmful federal intrusion in the daily work of local police.
When proactive policing declines and violent crime rises, minority communities get hit the hardest. We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals. Every neighborhood needs to be safe and peaceful.
Our first priority must be to save lives, restore public safety, and bring back the community policing that we know works. To help achieve those goals, the department, with the help of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will focus our efforts on thwarting violent crime, drug trafficking, and gun crime and gang violence. If combating violent crime and restoring public safety are seen as dramatic reversals, then I fully support such a sea change.
Again, this is the AG of the United States is telling us that the priority of the Trump regime is not just "we're not concerned about stopping police from killing innocents" but "we're actively reversing measures that stop police from killing innocents
in order to give police more power, and if this results in them killing more innocents, it will be made up for by hopefully reducing the number of innocents that are killed by criminals."
If that sounds awful to you, it's because you would have to accept the basis of Sessions's argument, which is "police who are supposed to follow the law and kill innocent people is not something we can actively control, but criminals killing innocents is something we can do something about." Furthermore, you'd have to again accept that the measures used to stop police from gunning people down are actively allowing criminals to kill additional people if they are kept in place
. The problem in Sessions's world isn't bad cops, it's rules and laws and safeguards that are supposed to prevent bad cops.
I think cops should be held to a higher ethical standard than crooks, but apparently Sessions doesn't agree. How many police shootings per year are acceptable to justify the removal of safeguard measures like federal oversight of departments with long and detailed histories of corruption and wrongdoing?
Look, I know people in the law enforcement community. They are good people and are dedicated to their jobs, and every one of them would agree that police must be held to a different ethical standard than the people they protect, or the people they pursue. But I also know that they work with people who don't agree with that, cops who believe that police are righteous swords of justice that cannot and should not be judged by the people who they need to protect them on a daily basis from chaos.
But the moment you buy that line of thinking, you lose the right to be called a "protector" of society. And that line of thinking is possessed by the nation's top cop now. We're all in danger when that happens, period.
And that brings us to the larger point: Sessions and Trump want America scared so that they can justify the use of brutal force, it's a standard authoritarian tactic. This is why they are both repeatedly lying about "violent crime in America's cities on the rise" and as Sessions does above, the framing is that urban (black) neighborhoods are so crime-ridden that efforts to hold police departments accountable
are actually responsible for black deaths at the hands of black criminals.
This serves as both shaming black people and scaring white people. It removes sympathy and agency from black people in black neighborhoods ("If they really
thought Black Lives Matter, they would stop killing each other and let the cops come in hard") while absolving the structural racism in both policing and in America itself. It's long been used as an effective wedge to split resistance to bad cops.
Again, this is now being used by America's chief law enforcement official. It's disgusting and depressing and was totally predictable, and yet it helped Trump win the votes he needed to win and appoint Sessions as AG. This is who we are in America in 2017.
We had the method to stop this. We chose not to, or rather, 65 million of us or so chose not to, and even more chose to sit at home and do nothing about it.