Apparently we at The Root—and specifically, staff writer Michael Harriot—are not the only ones adept at delivering a great clapback when the time calls for it. The Chicago Tribune editorial board proved Thursday that they are also in the clapback game, especially when it concerns U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
First, a bit of background.
The U.S. Department of Justice (the Obama DOJ, that is) conducted a yearlong investigation into the Chicago Police Department, which ended in January 2017 and found that the department was guilty of, among other things, using excessive force—especially when dealing with black and Latinx people.
When Jeff Sessions took over the DOJ, he made it abundantly clear that he sided with law enforcement and did not see consent decrees as a necessity. In fact, in April 2017, he ordered his department to review all current consent decrees—again mandates that were put in place by the Obama administration’s DOJ—reasoning that the reviews would ensure that the decrees didn’t run counter to the Trump administration’s goal of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.
When it became clear in June 2017 that the DOJ was not going to make a consent decree agreement with Chicago Police Department, a group of plaintiffs that included four private citizens and 10 community-based organizations—Black Lives Matter Chicago, the Chicago Urban League, Blocks Together, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Justice for Families-Black Lives Matter Chicago, Network 49, Women’s All Points Bulletin, the 411 Movement for Pierre Loury, and the West Side Branch and Illinois State Conference of the NAACP—filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago as well as 16 individual Chicago police officers in an effort to force federal oversight of CPD reform.
The community groups involved in Campbell v. City of Chicago put together a list of recommendations for improvement of the CPD.
Sessions, of course, expressed no interest in improving the Chicago Police Department.
So fast forward to Tuesday when Sessions made it clear that he sees any type of improvement plan for the embattled police department as an impediment to those officers doing their jobs.
“Chicago’s agreement with the ACLU in late 2015 dramatically undercut proactive policing in the city and kicked off perhaps the greatest surge in murder ever suffered by a major American city, with homicides increasing more than 57 percent the very next year,” Sessions said. “Now the city’s leaders are seeking to enter into another agreement. It is imperative that the city not repeat the mistakes of the past—the safety of Chicago depends on it.
“Accordingly, at the end of this week, the Justice Department will file a statement of interest opposing the proposed consent decree. It is critical that Chicago get this right,” he added.
In an editorial Thursday, the Chicago Tribune openly addressed Jeff Sessions and his plan to circumvent police reform in their city.
The tl;dr version of their response? Thanks, but no thanks.
From the Tribune:
Dear Mr. Sessions:
Thank you for your interest in Chicago’s police consent decree, now in its final stages of development. We are confident your “statement of interest” will be given due consideration by U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who will hold public hearings on the draft agreement later this month.
We have just one question: Where were you in early 2017, when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to follow through on the consent decree prescribed by the U.S. Department of Justice you took over when the White House changed hands?
Oh, now we remember: You wanted no part of it. You believed then, as you do now, that worrying about the civil rights of suspects gets in the way of fighting crime. Instead of doubling down on the hard work that had been done in Chicago, you tried (unsuccessfully) to torpedo Baltimore’s consent decree, which was then at this same public hearing stage.
This line, however, sums it up the best:
“Mr. Sessions: If you’re so worried about the violence in Chicago, you’ll stop trying to sabotage efforts to repair that trust.”
The fact of the matter is, police officers in this country are out of control, and they are running around abusing their power, largely unchecked. That the highest law enforcement officer in the country thinks that what he proposed is OK sends a dangerous message to us all.
None of us are safe.
We aren’t safe from the criminals and we aren’t safe from the police either. And it would seem, this is exactly what Jeff Sessions and his orange marshmallow of a boss want.
I would say that we are going back in time, but we aren’t.
This is where we’ve always been. It’s just that the hoods are coming off and those in control aren’t hiding their agendas any longer.
As the Tribune so aptly said to Sessions:
Your Justice Department should have been involved in this process all along, but you opted out. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan had to step in to finish the job you wouldn’t. You were not helpful then. You are not being helpful now.
Chicago doesn’t need or appreciate your drive-by assessment. We can’t imagine Judge Dow, who has overseen this long and difficult process, will be impressed with it, either.