In his final hours as U.S. Attorney General last month, Jeff Sessions issued a memo limiting the Justice Department’s power to pursue and enforce federal consent decrees with local police departments.
These court-enforced arrangements were a major tool for the Obama administration to curb patterns of police abuse and misconduct during a time of heightened national attention on the issue. The Obama administration launched “pattern or practice” investigations into 25 police departments and entered into 14 consent decrees. By comparison, the Trump administration has initiated zero.
Sessions’ eleventh-hour decision did not come as a surprise.
“The Department of Justice under this administration will never negotiate or sign a consent decree that could reduce the lawful powers of the police department,” said a DOJ spokesman last year.