Jeff Sessions, Attorney General for the Trump administration, has ordered a review of police reform agreements that could result in less oversight for local law enforcement agencies. This policy rollback could result in an increased incidence of police brutality.
MINNEAPOLIS– The effect of police brutality on black communities in the United States is well-documented. Under President Donald Trump, who marked his first day as president by vowing to end what he called a “dangerous anti-police atmosphere,” this form of abuse will likely continue with little to no consequences for those guilty of perpetrating it.
By the end of last year, the number of people killed by police had reached a staggering 1,156. Police officers across the U.S. engaged in patterns of excessive force, including the use of deadly force, while rarely being prosecuted for their actions.
In September, Trump called for “stop-and-frisk,” a policing practice ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional by a U.S. district court judge in 2013, to be implemented nationwide, citing Chicago violence as an example as to why the practice should be used.
In November, Patrisse Cullors, one if the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote that a Trump presidency means more police brutality against black people. According to a report from the Washington Post, “unarmed black Americans [are] five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.”
We have already seen this violence materialize even in the earliest stages of Trump’s presidency. His first month in office was one of the deadliest in terms of the number of killings by police officers. A total of 105 people were killed by police violence, the highest number killed in one month since 2015.
Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of police accountability agreements, a troubling move that’s since been heavily criticized by human rights organizations as being “a clear indication that [Sessions’] Department of Justice is moving toward abandoning its obligations to uphold federal civil rights laws through consent decrees.”
What this review indicates is that the Department of Justice will likely put a stop to consent decrees, as well as abstain from enforcing decrees that already exist. The decrees are meant to address police brutality, but without them, the use of unnecessary force could increase.
In a statement from the Leadership Conference, a leading human and civil rights coalition, CEO Wade Henderson argued that “consent decrees are a crucial tool in the Justice Department’s enforcement of civil rights in a variety of areas, including addressing police misconduct.”
It is likely that Trump’s administration will continue to ease what many right-wing ideologues consider to be restrictive policies that are undermining the crime-fighting efficacy of police officers. But this doesn’t mean that their plans won’t face resistance. Despite the challenges that lay ahead, groups like Black Lives Matter and their allies have promised to fight back against the administration’s discriminatory policies.