Attorney General Jeff Sessions conceded Monday that he hadn’t read the recent Department of Justice reports on the police departments in Chicago and Ferguson, MO, but called summaries of the findings “pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based,” according to the Huffington Post.
Sessions told reporters Monday that he was “really worried” about Chicago’s surging violence, but had “not made a decision” about whether to implement the reforms to the Chicago Police Department laid out in the DOJ report.
The DOJ’s investigation into the CPD found that the department violated constitutional rights by engaging in a “pattern or practice of use of excessive force.” The probe was sparked by the police-involved shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald, who was killed by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014.
“The Chicago Police Department does not give its officers the training they need to do their job safely, effectively, and lawfully,” Lynch noted after the report was released in January. “It does not adequately review use of force incidents to determine whether force was appropriate or lawful, or whether the use of force could have been avoided altogether.”
Sessions, who met earlier this month with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, linked officers’ low morale to Chicago's surging violence and expressed concerns about the city’s “dramatic reduction in stops and arrests," according to Politico.
“So they have the same number of officers but the number of people getting arrested for presumably smaller crimes — you know, the broken windows concept in New York… that [has] got to be a factor in the increase in violence in the city,” Sessions said.
“Broken windows” is a criminological theory that influenced New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk practice.
On Monday, Sessions said the Trump administration’s Justice Department would recalibrate its approach to police abuse cases, the Huffington Post reports.
“We’ve got to go back and make sure that our police departments understand that they’re being supported, both by the Department of Justice as an ally, and by the American people,” Sessions said.
“I do believe the Department of Justice is the leading advocate for law enforcement in America, and I hope to be able to fulfill my responsibility in that regard,” he added.
During a speech Monday to the National Association of Attorneys General, Sessions singled out Chicago as he pointed to cities with rising murder rates, citing a recent Wall Street Journal article.
“Certain major cities are seeing dramatic, I mean really dramatic, increases in murder rates: Chicago, Baltimore, I hear New Orleans,” Sessions said. "So lots of this out there that’s driving a sense that we’re in danger. I say that we need to return to the ideas that got us here, the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it.”
Sessions said he’s worried that spiking crime in certain cities “represents the beginning of a trend,” tying increased drug abuse to increased crime. He claimed Americans have “undermined the respect for our police,” making their jobs more difficult.
“We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” Sessions said. “So we’re gonna try to pull back on this and I don’t think it’s wrong, or mean, or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.”
“I think it’s out of a concern to make the lives of people in particularly the poor communities, minority communities, live a safer, happier life,” he added.
The former Republican senator also stressed the need for more community policing and promised to prosecute law enforcement officials who break the law, “just as much as any citizen who commits an assault."