Jeff Sessions gave his first speech as U.S. attorney general on Tuesday, and in it he tied a recent increase in violent crime to a lack of respect for police officers. He vowed that his Justice Department would be more supportive of local police departments and “not diminish their effectiveness.”
The Washington Post reports that Sessions warned that he believed the recent increase in violent crime was not “a one-time blip” but, rather, “the beginning of a trend,” going so far as to suggest that the increase was linked to changing perceptions of law enforcement after years of protests nationwide against how police officers use deadly force.
(Yes, you read that correctly. Jeff Sessions believes the cause of the change in the perception of law enforcement is not the actions of the law-enforcement officers themselves, up to and including the extrajudicial killings of black people, but the people protesting the actions of law enforcement. They are the ones making law enforcement look bad in the eyes of the public.)
“One of the big things out there that’s, I think, causing trouble, and where you can see the greatest increase in violence and murders in cities is somehow, some way, we undermined the respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult,” Sessions said in a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General. “It’s not been well-received by them, and we’re not seeing the kind of effective, community-based, street-based policing that we found to be so effective in reducing crime.”
From the Post:
Session appeared to be offering a tacit endorsement of what some call the “Ferguson effect,” the idea that police officers have become less aggressive during an era of increased scrutiny of law enforcement. (The name comes from the Missouri city inflamed by protests in 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old black man.)
Sessions’s predecessor, former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, has said there is “no data to support” this theory, but the general idea has had some high-profile backers. FBI Director James B. Comey has mentioned multiple times that he is concerned about a link between the increase in homicides and police officers’ fear of being recorded during a tense situation in a video that then goes viral.
Speaking to reporters last year, Comey said he resisted the term “Ferguson effect” and instead called it “a sort of viral video effect” that “could well be at the heart of this.”
The Justice Department released a copy of Sessions’ prepared remarks, and according to the Post, he was supposed to spend more time on this topic in his speech, refer to Comey’s comments and note concerns about viral videos.
According to the prepared remarks, Sessions planned to say: “We’ve also heard from law enforcement leaders, including the FBI director and many police chiefs, that something is changing in policing. They tell us that in this age of viral videos and targeted killings of police, many of our men and women in law enforcement are becoming more cautious. They’re more reluctant to get out of their squad cars and do the hard but necessary work of up-close policing that builds trust and prevents violent crime.”
(Uhhhh ... OK. So if I am reading this correctly, the U.S. attorney general is saying police officers are afraid to do their jobs because of the officers who have been caught on video doing the wrong fucking thing. Does that sound about right?)
More from the Post:
Current and former police officers have said they feel anxious since the protests in recent years. But criminologists have said it is too soon to draw any conclusions from or agree upon a cause for the increases in violent crime, which is still at historically low levels.
Sessions had planned to mention the historically low crime levels in his prepared speech before suggesting the recent uptick represented “a dangerous new trend.” Those remarks would have echoed President Trump, who during the campaign and in office has repeatedly offered a grim assessment of a nation besieged by violence.
In the prepared remarks, Sessions had offered a more robust defense of police officers, saying that “in recent years law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable deeds of a few bad actors.” Sessions also planned to describe declining morale among law enforcement officers and to note that the number of police officers killed in the line of duty went up last year, fueled by an increase in ambush attacks and shootings.
Richard Berk is a professor of statistics and criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. After reading Sessions’ prepared remarks Tuesday, he said in an email to the Post, “Attacks on police officers are real and tragic, but the reference to Ferguson-like effects is largely anecdotal. There may or may not be something there. My understanding is that the evidence supporting such claims is not really persuasive one way or another in part because it will vary across jurisdictions.”
The Post notes that Sessions, who is a former federal prosecutor, has been critical of the consent decrees that force reforms on police departments. During his confirmation hearings, he said that they “undermine the respect for police officers.”
So, holding police accountable for doing their jobs in a fair and unbiased manner undermines respect for them?
Once again, members of the Trump administration are using lies and creative spin to further their own agendas for the American people. We have a new Justice Department head who wants to turn a blind eye to the horrible injustices police visit upon American citizens every single day, while simultaneously demonizing those same citizens for speaking out against said injustices.
This presidency and this administration are a shit show, and we are only one month in.
Dear God, we’re doomed.
Read more at the Washington Post.