Sessions: Justice to limit action against police departments on civil rights

Sessions: Justice to limit action against police departments on civil rights
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE said Tuesday that his Justice Department will “pull back” from suing police departments for violating minorities’ civil rights, according to an NBC report.

"We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I'm afraid we've done some of that," Sessions said during a meeting with attorneys general from across the country.

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"So we're going to try to pull back on this,” he continued.

Sessions said the decision is not "wrong or insensitive to civil rights or human rights." Instead, he said, the federal government must help police combat violent crime in poor and minority communities.

While crime rates are half what they were in recent decades, Sessions said recent increases in violent crime are “the beginning of a trend” rather than a “one-time blip."

The attorney general indicated that he would encourage federal prosecutors to crack down on crimes committed with guns. 

"We need to return to the ideas that got us here, the ideas that reduce crime and stay on it. Maybe we got a bit overconfident when we've seen the crime rate decline so steadily for so long," Sessions said.

The Justice Department under the Obama administration opened more than two dozen investigations into police departments, resolving civil rights lawsuits with police departments in Ferguson, Mo.; Baltimore; New Orleans; Cleveland; and 15 other cities.

Sessions's comments mark a change in policy under the Trump administration.

The decision is expected to raise criticism from those who were opposed to Sessions’s nomination. The attorney general’s nomination to a federal judgeship was derailed in 1986 by accusations of racism.