DOJ to ‘Pull Back’ on Police Dept. Civil Rights Suits

Jeff Sessions
Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP / Alex Brandon

Attorney General Jeff sessions said Tuesday the Justice Department will limit suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities.

NBC News reports that Sessions feels the department needs “so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. […] So we’re going to try to pull back on this.”

Sessions made the announcement during a meeting of the nation’s state attorneys general in Washington. He also said the move—which reverses a tactic aggressively executed under President Obama—would not be “wrong or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.”

Instead he said people in poor and minority communities must feel free from the threat of violent crime. That will require more effective policing with help from the federal government.

Sessions said he will encourage federal prosecutors to bring charges when crimes are committed using guns. Referring local drug violations that involve the use of a firearm to court for example, can result in a stiffer sentence than would be imposed by state courts.

Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department opened 25 investigations into U.S. police departments and sheriff’s offices. At the end of 2016, they were enforcing 19 agreements, resolving civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, New Orleans, Cleveland and 15 other cities.

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