U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Chicago Friday to complain that the city’s proposed police consent decree was put together by “lame duck politicians” looking to control the police department “from their political graves.”
Sessions did not call out by name the two major officeholders negotiating the consent decree, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, but the shot across the bow of the two outgoing Democrats was unmistakable.
Sessions, whose own tenure as attorney general could be coming to an end after the November mid-term elections, argued that enacting the consent decree with approval from an “unelected judge” was “anti-democratic in nature.”
“If approved, the judicial decree will deprive the next mayor, the City Council and the superintendent of the lawful authority that they ought to have,” he said in a speech to the Chicago Crime Commission.
Sessions said it was his third trip to Chicago in recent weeks. On each visit, Sessions has bemoaned Chicago’s violent crime problems and blamed it on city leaders hamstringing police, a theme pushed by President Donald Trump since his election.
“The bravery of Chicago police is not in question. Their love for this city is not in question. What is in question, however, is the support and political courage of their elected officials,” Sessions said in Friday’s remarks, delivered at the Union League Club of Chicago while protesters demonstrated outside.
Just last week the attorney general announced the Justice Department would file a brief in federal court opposing the consent decree, which is being handled by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr.
Sessions made no mention Friday of his limited court options in opposing the decree, instead urging the city to reconsider.
A spokeswoman for Madigan said Sessions’ comments “show how little he knows and cares about the people and police in Chicago.”
“Chicago residents and police all agree that the police department needs reform. The U.S. Department of Justice also agreed after it made more than 100 recommendations on how to reform CPD. The consent decree will bring the reform and resources Chicago police officers need to do their jobs,” the spokeswoman said.
Emanuel chose Twitter to issue his response.
“Today Jeff Sessions praised Bill Bratton’s NYPD leadership, then attacked Chicago. Before the AG runs his mouth he should get educated on what he’s talking about. Bratton is America’s top police expert and yesterday he praised Chicago’s crime reductions over the past 2 years,” the mayor tweeted, attaching a video of Bratton doing just that.
Sessions had cited Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani because he said the president credits them for violent crime reductions that “saved” that city.
Sessions continued to put the blame for Chicago’s violence on a 2015 agreement between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union that placed restrictions and reporting requirements on police “stop-and-frisk” activities.
He painted the consent decree as more of the same, calling the plan to allow a court-appointed monitor to supervise the department a “seductive idea” that is an “insult” to the police.
“Chicago police are not the problem,” Sessions said. “Chicago police are the solution.”