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Attorney General Memorandum
Issued March 31, 2017

Update: November 17, 2017

On November 17, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a department memorandum that prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from issuing regulatory guidance documents. This announcement is an implementation of the policy announced by the Attorney General in March when he said, “it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non – federal law enforcement agencies.” In years past, the federal government through the DOJ was permitted to enter into consent decrees with local law enforcement departments to help suggest and implement better practices to reduce potential police and civil rights abuses. But Sessions has likely brought that to an end with his directive against issuing regulatory guidance documents. This is disappointing considering residents in Baltimore are eager to see a federal police consent decree implemented. The Attorney General’s decision removes another tool that was often used to address local law enforcement abuses. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Policy Summary

On March 31, 2017, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to Department of Justice attorneys promoting support for federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement authorities. The Attorney General pledged the resources of the Department of Justice in order to “promote a peaceful and lawful society where the civil rights of all persons are valued and protected.” In order to implement these twin goals, the Attorney General laid out a framework that emphasized “strengthening our longstanding and productive relationships with our law enforcement partners” at the various levels of government. LEARN MORE

Analysis

The law enforcement policy proposed by the Attorney General creates two immediate problems. The memorandum states [1] “it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies” and that [2] “misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn…[the] honorable work…that law enforcement…agencies perform.” This is problematic because the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has the power and authority to investigate and offer solutions to law enforcement agencies that have engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States. By minimizing unlawful conduct as only misdeeds of selected individuals, the Attorney General is ignoring the fact that numerous law enforcement agencies have systemic deficiencies that contribute to police ineffectiveness. But he also goes a step further by stating that DOJ should no longer step in to offer solutions to improve policing as DOJ did many times previously, most notably in recent police misconduct investigations in Chicago and Baltimore. This new policy, and current review of reform agreements nationwide, will curtail the ability of local communities to partner with the Federal Government to monitor, critique and address local law enforcement abuses. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

 

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@usresistnews.org.


 

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