Speaking to a room full of law enforcement officers from Chicago and the rest of the state, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday doubled down on previous critiques of the city’s gun violence and proposed consent decree.
“The view of the Department of Justice is that consent decrees generally should not bar or constrict lawful police procedures that are proven to work,” Sessions said of the decrees, which he said need to be “carefully watched.”
“It’s easy for lawyers and politicians to put requirements in these agreements, but it’s another thing for our officers to be able to carry them out effectively in the real world. So I would just say we need to be careful and what’s adopted here doesn’t need to make this city less safe, does not need to place our minority communities at greater risk,” Sessions told the crowd at the Chicago Crime Commission’s annual Stars of Distinction awards dinner Wednesday evening.
Sessions also spoke to the commission, a private group that advocates for more effective laws to fight crime, in October. During that speech he criticized city leaders for not supporting police adequately and lambasted the pending consent decree that would bring reforms to the Chicago Police Department.
Before being forced to resign from his post earlier this month, Sessions signed an order limiting the Justice Department’s ability to use consent decrees to bring about reforms in police departments accused of abusing civil rights.
Chicago police “are not the problem — Chicago police are the solution,” Sessions said in October.
“Importantly, this proposed decree would rob the people of Chicago of their votes,” Sessions said in October. “It would make policing unaccountable to the people.”
During his speech Wednesday night, Sessions reiterated many of those points, reaffirming his support for police officers as the “solution” to crime and saying he wanted to “close the loop” on comments he made in October now that his time at the Department of Justice is complete.
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The nation’s former top lawyer has been vocal about Chicago’s gun violence, blaming a 2015 deal between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union for a spike in crime in 2016 — a point he brought up again during his speech, saying the so-called “ACLU effect,” a term cited by two Utah professors in their study as a possible explanation for the city’s spike in violence, “cannot happen again.”
The 2015 agreement required police to better document street stops to reduce racial profiling and reliance on “stop-and-frisk” policing. President Donald Trump and the Fraternal Order of Police have argued the deal ties the hands of police — an argument rejected by the ACLU and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
A study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab could not say definitively what caused the spike in violence in 2016.
A lack of support for police isn’t the only reason for a spike in crime. Sessions said he remained “steadfast” that Chicago and other cities are “making a monumental mistake” with their sanctuary policies.
The policies “impede” Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from doing their jobs and “frustrates their lawful mission” and “places their lives at greater risk.”
“I urge the city and all the jurisdictions who are involved in the sanctuary agenda to reevaluate what they’re doing,” Sessions said. “Whatever the crime rate will be in the future, it’ll be higher if you maintain these policies.”
Along with Session’s remarks, the program featured 11 awards presented to individuals in law enforcement throughout the state and their affiliated organizations for their work in the field.