Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an old-school law and order man. He wants asset forfeiture returned to its former glory — no longer questioned by all and sundry for its ability to enrich law enforcement agencies without making much of a dent in criminal activity. He wants drug sellers jailed for as long as possible, suggesting the last time he read a policy paper was sometime during the mid-1980s. And he thinks people questioning law enforcement efforts should be ashamed of themselves, what with the dangers faced occasionally by officers whose workplace can’t even crack the Top 10 Deadliest Jobs in America list.
Sessions goes where he’s wanted when he speaks, ensuring he’ll receive applause and accolades, rather than a bunch of “wtfs?” when he delivers bullshit like this:
I believe one of my highest duties is to call attention to your successes, and to encourage our fellow citizens to support you in your difficult and dangerous work.
But what has made times difficult recently for law enforcement is that—by the end of the previous administration—many of you came to believe that some of the political leadership of this country had abandoned you. Some radicals and politicians began to unfairly malign and blame police as a whole for the crimes and unacceptable deeds of a few. Amazing— their message seemed to be that the police were the problem, not the criminals. They wanted the ACLU to determine police policies, and that was enforced by a federal court order. They said police were violent while homicides in America increased by a total of 20% in 2015 and 2016, the largest jump since 1968. Law Professor Paul Cassell and economics Professor Richard Fowles established that in Chicago, homicide jumped 58% after the ACLU settlement ended proven and constitutional policing.
This was delivered to the National Association of Police Organizations — a union of police unions — so there was no one present to question the veracity of this statement, nor push back against its loaded, implicit assertions. No one would expect any more (or any less!) of an organization of organizations which are largely responsible for the general state of disrepair that passes for policing these days.
Law enforcement has never been abandoned. Even when the criticism rains down from the federal government, it’s always hedged with phrases implying the problem is a few officers, rather than the culture itself. If all it takes is an incremental increase in accountability to make officers feel “abandoned,” they’re far too sensitive to be holding positions of public power.
Second, Sessions shows he doesn’t care about police misconduct or public accountability by maligning those who demand accountability as “radicals.” This suggests Sessions is more interested in a docile nation than upholding his duties as Attorney General, which (used to) include investigating and prosecuting officers who abuse their power.
Finally, his portrayal of the rise in violence in Chicago as the direct result of a consent decree is both dishonest and ugly. The consent decree dealt with the Chicago PD’s stop-and-frisk tactics. The PD agreed to revamp its policies after a 2015 report by the ACLU found the program disproportionately targeted black residents. In other words, Sessions is claiming requiring cops to behave Constitutionally results in increased criminal activity.
That would be bad enough on its own, but there’s not one single thing Sessions can point at to back up this claim — not even the report itself. Correlation isn’t causation and there’s ample evidence a consent decree that requires Constitutional policing does not lead to increased crime. We have apples-to-apples comparisons that disprove this ridiculous theory.
The NYPD was forced to drastically alter its stop-and-frisk program for the same reasons (targeting minorities). Crime went down, despite then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s promise of a criminal apocalypse. That’s only one example. Salvador Rizzo of the Washington Post has several more.
Philadelphia has been working under a settlement agreement on stop-and-frisk practices like Chicago’s since 2011, and its homicide rate fell for several years afterward before rising again in 2016 and 2017 (albeit at much lower rates than in Chicago).
In Newark, N.J., a consent decree imposing requirements for stop-and-frisk practices, among other provisions, was adopted in 2016. The city reported 72 homicides in 2017, a 25 percent drop, although nonfatal shootings increased.
“The consent decree was signed and the monitor appointed in the spring and summer of 2016, and Newark continues to have the lowest crime in 50 years since then,” said Paul J. Fishman, the former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, who implemented the consent decree.
Sessions is correct in terms of quoting the report’s findings. But the findings cannot possibly be correct. Even if the stats are right, the rationale is wrong. Fewer police stops may lead to increased crime, but connecting the two is far from a foregone conclusion. And yet, there it is, in a still-unreleased report that provides ammo for supporters of unconstitutional policing.
Even the authors of the report find it difficult to make this conclusion stick. To do so means throwing out other contradictory evidence, which is exactly what appears to have happened.
Cassell and Fowles called New York City an “anomaly” and wrote that it had a much lower rate of homicides committed with firearms than Chicago, “a small number of guns and gun crimes (relative to Chicago and many other cities),” and a police force that is about 25 percent larger than Chicago’s on a per-capita basis.
The other “anomalies” (Philadelphia, Seattle, Newark, etc.) were ignored. The DOJ itself — which Sessions heads — did not arrive at this conclusion either. Its report on increased violence suggests a few factors, none of which are the consent decree governing police stops.
“Over the year-plus since release of that video, and while we have been conducting this investigation, Chicago experienced a surge in shootings and homicides,” the DOJ report says. “The reasons for this spike are broadly debated and inarguably complex. But on two points there is little debate. First, for decades, certain neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides have been disproportionately ravaged by gun violence. Those same neighborhoods have borne the brunt of the recent surge of violence. And second, for Chicago to find solutions — short- and long-term — for making those neighborhoods safe, it is imperative that the City rebuild trust between CPD and the people it serves, particularly in these communities.”
While Chicago may be grabbing headlines with its high number of homicides, several other US cities have experienced higher spikes in the violent crime rate — Ft. Worth, Houston, Memphis, and Baltimore have seen far more significant increases than Chicago’s. But no one is claiming these spikes are due to ACLU meddling, consent decrees, or the actions of “radicals” opposed to abusive policing. Nope, it’s just AG Sessions cherry-picking a single report with anomalous “findings” — one that refers to data that doesn’t agree with its theory as “anomalous.” Speaking in front of cops makes it that much easier to peddle bullshit. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s still bullshit, no matter how much uncritical applause is offered in return.