How the Trump Administration Undid Obama’s Policing Reforms

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The administration’s moves “send messages to police that they can do whatever they want,” said one former Obama official.

on how and when police can interact with citizens. At the very least, these departments understood they were being watched and had to regularly report progress to a judge.

After significant lobbying from police unions that have supported Trump, the Department of Justice undid these reforms. In his second month in office, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all consent decrees and placed roadblocks to existing decrees. On his last week on the job, Sessions issued aimposing strict limits on new consent decrees and preventing enhancements to current ones.

Dramatically, the Sessions DOJ even refused to go forward with a consent decree of the Chicago Police Department after the Obama administration had already issued a report finding systemic abuses in the wake of the murder of Laquan McDonald.

While consent decrees are not and have never been a panacea, they at least offered some mechanism to keep the most egregious police departments in check. “The absence of the possibility of a DOJ investigation has been extremely harmful as a deterrent to misconduct,” Bains said. Under the old rules, the Minneapolis Police Department—with itsof killings of unarmed black men—might now be facing a consent decree demanding court-ordered reforms.

 

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