Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rips Sessions’ Review of Police Reform


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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus is not happy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ plan to re-evaluate federal oversight of police departments, a strategy instituted under former President Barack Obama.

Democratic Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond wrote a letter to Sessions Wednesday, criticizing the attorney general for issuing a memo that instructed Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers to re-examine Obama administration agreements on local police reform.

“As you may recall, we opposed your nomination to serve as attorney general because, over more than three decades of public service, you have developed a questionable record on issues of justice, equality and civil rights,” Richmond wrote. “It is clear by your recent actions that our opposition was well founded, as you have demonstrated a complete disregard for your responsibility to protect the rights of all Americans.”

Under Sessions’ predecessors Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the DOJ investigated dozens of local police departments for civil rights abuses and discriminatory policing tactics. In several high-profile cases — including Baltimore and Chicago — the Obama administration was able to implement so-called consent decrees, which are negotiated settlements that place local law enforcement agencies under the federal courts’ eye.

Sessions pushed back against federal management of local police departments in the memo, which was released to the public on Monday. Going forward, he said, previous agreements between the DOJ’s civil rights division and local police agencies will be subject to review by department lawyers. (RELATED: DOJ To Embark On Review Of Obama Era Policies)

“Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective policing,” Sessions said. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”

Richmond rejected that argument and suggested that Sessions should instead conduct a review of how police departments are seen in local communities.

“If you are reviewing all agency activities, we implore you to give all due consideration in review of officer-involved shootings, deaths in custody, and reports of police brutality or excessive force,” he wrote.

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