Sessions orders limits on police consent decrees

In one of his last acts as attorney general, Jeff Sessions directed US attorneys to limit consent decrees that have severely hampered law enforcement's ability to protect citizens.

It's a victory for local control of police departments, who had been under fire in many cities after radical groups like Black Lives Matter and the ACLU helped write rules under which local law enforcement was hamstrung in their ability to do their job.


Sessions has long opposed consent decrees between the Justice Department and police departments in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore to institute reforms, which were heavily utilized in the Obama administration, and sought to delay or overturn them.

Sessions had ordered a sweeping review of the decrees nationwide, alarming civil rights advocates who saw them as ways to address alleged unlawful police stops, excessive force and other violations, especially toward blacks and other minorities.

Advocates criticized Sessions' departing order, saying the new procedures will make it more difficult to ensure that law enforcement and other entities such as schools and companies uphold an individual's constitutional rights.

<p content="" this="" move="" is="" a="" slap="" in="" the="" face="" to="" dedicated="" career="" staff="" of="" department="" who="" work="" tirelessly="" enforce="" our="" nation's="" civil="" rights="" laws,"="" vanita="" gupta,="" head="" leadership="" conference="" on="" and="" human="" rights,="" an="" advocacy="" group,="" said="" statement."="" data-reactid="20" type="text">"This move is a slap in the face to the dedicated career staff of the department who work tirelessly to enforce our nation's civil rights laws," Vanita Gupta, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

Sessions in a notice issued before his departure said such agreements would be appropriate only in "limited circumstances," and must be narrowly tailored to address specific injuries from an alleged violation, not more sweeping police reforms.

In the memo dated Wednesday and released late Thursday Sessions said the new requirements would include limitations on how long a consent decree could last and prohibitions against their use "to achieve general policy goals," among other curbs.

Agreements must also be reviewed by senior Justice Department officials, he wrote.

These are reasonable and sensible steps to reform a process that was being misused by so-called civil rights activists who had never patrolled the streets of a dangerous city or tried to make an arrest of a drug-crazed felon. In effect, activists with the ACLU and Black Lives Matter believed if it came to a life and death situation between a cop and a criminal, it would be better if the cop died in order to preserve the "civil rights" of the perp.

Many of these decrees try to micro-manage police procedures. In Chicago, the decree will force officers to report when they point their gun at someone. The results of this micro-management are predictable; cops will only respond to direct calls for help and won't get out of their car to investigate possible crimes. In Baltimore, this has led to a massive spike in violent crime and Chicago's crime rate is also expected to rise dramatically.

Sessions is doing the right thing. Communities are perfectly capable of reforming the police where they need reforming. They certainly don't need a federal judge breathing down their necks.