On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice showed once again that it is more concerned about police morale than it is about police failings when it announced that it would be eliminating a program that investigates local police departments and issues reports detailing what they are doing wrong.
The Washington Post reports that the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services announced that it would be ending an effort that was started by the Obama administration to investigate and publicize shortcomings.
The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has conducted what are known as “pattern or practice” probes (pdf) for decades, investigating whether incidents reported against a troubled police department are isolated incidents or a regular practice. If it is determined that a department has a regular practice of discriminating against members of its community, for instance, a court-appointed monitor could be required to help the department correct the issue.
More recently, the COPS office has taken on a similar role, conducting its own investigations of individual departments and issuing its own report of what is wrong within those departments. For example, after angry protests over the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods last year in San Francisco, COPS investigated the San Francisco Police Department for six months and released a 432-page report in October with the finding that the department was guilty of having institutionalized bias against minority groups (pdf).
The Justice Department’s announcement Friday suggests that work will shift back to the Civil Rights Division, and COPS would return to offering training to police departments and advising them on best practices.
The Post reports that DOJ head Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes the move to be “a course correction to ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support.”
Last month, Sessions said he thought “the previous administration was more concerned about the image of law enforcement being too ‘militarized’ than they were about our safety.” That was when he made the decision to reverse an Obama-administration rule that restricted shipments of military surplus gear to police departments.
Sessions is worried about keeping the police safe from the citizens.
Who will keep the citizens safe from the police?
According to the Post, there are 14 departments nationwide that had either just begun receiving public reports from COPS or were expecting to receive reports soon. Does this mean that won’t happen now?
Before everyone rushes in to say, “Well, the Civil Rights Division will handle it now,” this is the same division that wants to sue over affirmative action, so you’ll pardon me, but I don’t have confidence in that department right now.
Stopping COPS from doing its investigations is likely a signal that there will be no further investigations.
We should all be afraid.
While the police are policing us, who is policing the police?
Read more at the Washington Post.