The federal government should keep its nose out of local law enforcement

Greg Nash

The Federal government’s infusion of race politics into local policing, one that undermines law enforcement, has been dealt a blow by Attorney General Jeff Session’s recently released memo to review all so-called “police reform” activities.

These federal efforts, which were aimed less at reform and more at increasing authority and power over local law enforcement, often took the form of “consent decrees,” with the U.S. Department of Justice calling for changes to policing from its perch in Washington D.C. 

{mosads}“Consent Decrees” were actively pursued by the Obama administration, and dealt blows to officer morale and their ability to serve the public, at a time when the media was already advancing false narratives about law enforcement on a daily basis. None of these misguided motives takes into account life at ground level in the American ghetto.


Recently, an officer from the Oakland, California Police Department informed me that officers are reluctant to engage in quality of life enforcement activities such as traffic stops for law violations, field interviews, or Terry stops of people reasonably suspected of being involved in criminal behavior in high- crime areas. They are reluctant because of the mounds of paperwork required after each contact in order to fulfill the US DOJ reporting demands and bogus claims of racial bias.

Traffic stop initiatives and Terry stops based on articulable suspicion in high crime areas yield a treasure trove of criminal activity. The searches often help capture people wanted on serious felony warrants; they turn up prohibited weapons and drugs. A return to these lawful strategies will reduce crime and protect law-abiding people trapped in those dangerous conditions. 

These decrees raise crime rates because they take preventive patrol time away from neighborhoods under siege by crime and violence. Time spent filling out reports also raises the cost of law enforcement, as some of this reporting ends up eating away more and more duty time and some being done on overtime. 

This data is then manipulated by cop-hating groups to gain even more politically motivated control that emasculates police. These race-baiting federal initiatives, in a misapplication of rules of statistics, use raw data on traffic stops, searches and arrests to show over-representation and disparate impact on people living in minority neighborhoods in a post-Ferguson, Missouri riot report. A study ordered by then Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Institute of Justice in 2013 on traffic stop data explains away the disparity when differences in offending are taken into account. In a bombshell finding the report indicates that 3 out of every 4 black drivers said police stopped them for a lawful reason, not for driving while black.

Where Consent Decrees were issued, police are handcuffed by an inability to proactively protect the public. It is the poorest Americans, more often minorities, who live in crime-ridden cities, who suffer the most through higher victimization rates. 

A showdown between the Obama-era Consent Decree imposed on Baltimore police and the new administration reveals how the Consent Decree is more a tool of political control than genuine reform.

Make no mistake, these Consent Decrees had only one aim: To bully local government while masked as oversight. This encroaches on states’ rights as states have a vested interest in controlling crime. 

Crime control is for the most part a local issue. Cities and states all have local oversight in place. It is a slap in the face and undermines the trust that local officials need to have in their solemn responsibility to hold police accountable.

Federal involvement should only take place in the most obvious instances of malfeasance or police misconduct that city and state officials turn a blind eye to. There are federal civil remedies available to those who believe that they have been harmed by government action.

Where true reform is needed is in the ability to allow police to tailor their approaches to each unique situation an agency finds itself in. Notice that no USDOJ suggestion ever includes programs that teach young people respect for authority or the rule of law.

This is at the heart of most police-citizen interactions that go terribly wrong.  Reform is always predicated on what the police can do differently. AG Sessions understands that reducing conflict is a two-way street.

While the attorney general’s memo is welcome, it must be seen as just the beginning of restoring the authority of those who know best how to fight crime and protect citizens. They are already held accountable by those at the local level who encourage good relationships between the community and those who serve them in law enforcement.

Sheriff David Clarke is the Milwaukee County sheriff. Clarke is the author of “Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America.” Follow him on Twitter @SheriffClarke

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


Tags Attorney general consent decrees DOJ Eric Holder Jeff Sessions Justice Department Sheriff David Clarke
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video