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 SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand 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.

"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.