What to Know
- The proposed consent decree spelled out new rules on police training, oversight, and use of force.
- The Department of Justice has filed a brief opposing the decree.
- The decree will be open to public opinion for two days at the Dirksen Federal Building later this month.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Chicago’s new proposed consent decree “insulting,” and said that the federal court order that led to it “unjustified” in a speech Friday afternoon.
Sessions, who has been an outspoken critic of the decree, denounced it as “vague” and said that it would not achieve its intended goal of greater police oversight and lower crime rates in the city of Chicago.
“Micro-managing the CPD through a federal court order isn’t justified. In fact, it’s insulting,” he said. “As leaders, we must hammer the wrongdoers, but affirm those that do their duty each and every day.”
In a speech before the Chicago Crime Commission, Sessions praised the city’s police officers, but criticized political leaders, whom he blamed for the dramatic increase in Chicago’s crime and murder rates after 2014.
Sessions blamed that spike in crime on an agreement between the ACLU and Chicago officials, which was designed to reduce the number of street stops in the city and to end Chicago’s “stop and frisk” policy, which President Donald Trump has called on law enforcement officials to resume.
“(According to a study), the cause of virtually the whole rise in homicides was the ACLU agreement,” he said. “It’s clear that this agreement was a colossal mistake. Decades of hard work were tossed away. All of America needs to understand this lesson: if you let the ACLU set police policy, crime will go up.”
Sessions has said that the Justice Department will fight the new consent decree, which spelled out new rules on police training, oversight, and use of force. The decree must be approved by a federal judge, and will be opened to public comment next week at the Dirksen Federal Building.
The attorney general called the decree “un-democratic,” saying that lawyers and federal judges wouldn’t be accountable to voters and would have negative effects on the morale and effectiveness of Chicago police officers.
“Chicago’s police are not the problem. They are the solution to the problem,” he said.
Some organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, have come out in opposition to the agreement, citing its cost, and its president called it “illegal and invalid” in a recent interview.
Several Illinois politicians, including Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Senator Tammy Duckworth, have criticized Sessions’ stance on the consent decree, saying that it’s an unnecessary obstacle to those looking to reform the city’s policing policies.
“This announcement from Attorney General Sessions is yet another item in a long list of counter-productive efforts from an administration that seems more focused on pandering to its base with hateful policies than actually reducing crime and improving police relations with the communities they serve,” Duckworth said in a statement.
Other organizations have also disputed Sessions’ assertion that consent decrees can lead to an increase in violent crime and violence against police officers. Merrick J. Bobb, who oversees the consent decree agreement in Seattle, said in a 2017 editorial that the city saw a reduction in crime as a result of its policies, and did not see any increase in officer incidents or injuries as a result of the policy.
A final decision on the policy will be reached next month.