The revelation was made during a meeting of the country's state attorneys general.
While admitting that violent crime rates are low, Sessions said he also believes that recent increases are “the beginning of a trend” and that the federal government needs “to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness” by punishing them when the rights of individuals are violated.
Under the last administration, the Justice Department opened more than two dozen investigations into local police departments, The Hill reports. One of the most famous of these probes happened in Ferguson, Missouri, where unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot and killed in 2014.
While the DOJ found a pattern of civil rights violations in its investigation into the department, the agency refused to comply with the terms of an agreement proposed by the feds. A lawsuit was then filed.
Sessions defended his decision by saying that limiting lawsuits against departments that commit civil rights violations isn't “wrong or insensitive to civil rights or human rights.” Instead, President Donald Trump's attorney general said he believes that people living in poor areas will feel safer since the federal government will be aiding local officials more directly.
While the past administration's approach to punishing agencies did not go far enough, providing no accountability is not the answer to the police brutality problem. After all, only one out of every three accused officers are actually convicted, and the overall consequences for misconduct are minimal.
As local agencies are often tasked with enforcing drug laws, which disproportionately impacts people of color and strains the relationship between local police officer and the community. But officers who make deadly mistakes — often willingly — are seldom punished personally. This creates a bad incentive for others in the force, since irresponsible officers aren't being held accountable for bad conduct.
If Sessions is serious about boosting safety across the board, he must first be willing to admit that allowing individual officers to make mistakes without having to pay for them is creating a monster.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Shannon Stapleton