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Sessions Shows Us (Again) That He’s Not Fit to be Attorney General

Surprising no one, last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back critical civil rights protections by stating that the federal government would “pull away” from monitoring police departments engaging in systematic abuses of power.

According to Sessions, President Obama’s tactic of suing police departments for violating the civil rights of communities of color “was undermining the effectiveness of the police across the country.” And, as a result Sessions’s Department of Justice now plans to “pull back” on these investigations: “In this age of viral videos and targeted killings of police, many of men and women in law enforcement are becoming more cautious.”

Law enforcement becoming more cautious? In my book, that’s a good thing.

Police manage to safely detain white people all the time; for some reason shoot first and ask questions later is law enforcement’s mantra only when it comes to black and brown folks. Instead of using his position to protect and serve our communities Sessions made an intentional decision to give more leeway to police officers to target our communities, leaving us at even more risk.

At the end of the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice released a report of over 161 pages, laying out in grave detail the gross injustices of Chicago police who targeted black and Latino communities by using excessive force. Their actions went largely unchecked — and were often reinforced — by their supervisors.

In his speech, Sessions dismissed that report with no clear explanation outside of being “unimpressed” with the findings. While it is clear that Sessions has never been an ally to communities of color, now is the time for the progressive movement to continue to resist, and demand the change we need in our communities. Instead of rolling back civil rights protections for communities of color, here are three ways Sessions could actually serve and protect our communities:

  • Create civilian oversight boards at the State and local levels for communities that are most impacted by destructive policing to provide input on budgets, policies, and disciplinary action. The Department of Justice can incentivize these boards  by including meaningful and clearly defined community oversight as part of its evaluation metrics for federally funded grant applications.
  • Divest from funding the expansion of local police forces and prisons, and instead prioritize funding to community-based organizations that are investing in long-term safety strategies such as restorative justice services, employment and education. Studies show that mass incarceration does not reduce crime and that workforce education programs help communities thrive
  • Develop model policies that ensure accountability for police sexual harassment and violence, ensuring the rights and dignity of LGBTQ and gender non-conforming folks while in police custody and decrease funding to police departments that fail to effectively implement and enforce these policies.

For additional policy recommendation at the federal, legislative and local levels that will help our communities thrive, check out the Movement for Black Lives Platform and BYP 100’s Agenda to Build Black Futures.

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