Government

Press Releases

Booker, Duckworth, Van Hollen, Durbin Push Back Against Attorney General on Consent Decrees

08f042b5e3fe3d7043d9_US_Senate_Logo.jpg
Credits: United States Senate
08f042b5e3fe3d7043d9_US_Senate_Logo.jpg

Letter follows Sessions’ memo to high-level Justice Department officials sent last week

WASHINGTON, DC – April 10, 2017 - Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) pushed back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to review existing consent decrees with local law enforcement, urging him not to reverse Justice Department policy on the use of consent decrees, pointing to their effectiveness in combatting civil rights abuses and improving public safety.  Consent decrees are formal agreements that the Justice Department negotiates with municipalities to implement systemic reforms in state and local police departments in order to curb civil rights abuses.

The letter comes on the heels of a memo Sessions sent last week ordering the Justice Department to review all consent decrees, throwing into question whether those agreements would remain going forward.

Sign Up for E-News

Last Friday, Sessions doubled-down on that policy with a forceful statement criticizing the approval of a proposed consent decree between Baltimore and the Justice Department.

“We write to express serious concern regarding your recent troubling comments suggesting the Department of Justice may reverse its policy on the use of consent decrees to combat civil rights abuses by state and local police departments,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the Justice Department to continue prioritizing the use of consent decrees to combat civil rights abuses by law enforcement when they occur. We must not retreat from proven, effective approaches to correcting systemic practices that undermine the sacred American value of equal justice under law.”

“Officer safety and morale, and appropriate oversight of widespread patterns of civil rights abuses, are not antithetical – they are clearly inextricably linked,” the lawmakers added.

Full text of the letter is below:

April 10, 2017

The Honorable Jeff Sessions

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Sessions,

We write to express serious concern regarding your recent troubling comments suggesting the Department of Justice may reverse its policy on the use of consent decrees to combat civil rights abuses by state and local police departments. We urge the Justice Department to continue prioritizing the use of consent decrees to combat civil rights abuses by law enforcement when they occur. We must not retreat from proven, effective approaches to correcting systemic practices that undermine the sacred American value of equal justice under law. 

In February, in the first major speech you gave as Attorney General, you vowed to “pull back” on federal suits against state and local police departments for civil rights abuses. We believe that doing so will undermine civil rights oversight, will prove harmful to police-community relations, and will make the jobs of police officers more, not less, difficult. Without a doubt, the vast majority of police officers do their jobs with professionalism and distinction. Combatting civil rights abuses when they occur not only protects the reputation of those police officers, but also fosters greater trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect. 

Late last month, in a memorandum to the heads of Justice Department components and United States Attorneys, entitled “Supporting Federal, State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement,” you ordered Justice Department officials to review “existing or contemplated consent decrees” with police departments under scrutiny for systemic civil rights violations to ensure they are consistent with the Trump Administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale. Officer safety and morale, and appropriate oversight of widespread patterns of civil rights abuses, are not antithetical – they are clearly inextricably linked.

There is no doubt that America’s law enforcement community deserves our utmost respect and protection. These brave men and women—who have answered the call to serve—stand on the front lines of the fight to keep the public safe. As Senators with years of public service experience, including many of us who have been state and local officials, we have had the great privilege to witness first-hand how the women and men who wear the badge work hard to keep our communities safe. They risk their lives to serve. They make split-second decisions to keep us safe from harm. And they do their often perilous jobs with honor, duty, and professionalism.

While most police officers do their jobs with the utmost integrity, your recent words and acts raise a specter of uncertainty on whether the Justice Department will appropriately monitor and assist police departments struggling to combat systemic practices that unfairly target minorities. If the Justice Department reverses its policy of aggressively investigating law enforcement civil rights abuses, and initiates or negotiates fewer consent decrees, civil rights violations may go unremedied.

Deemphasizing consent decrees would harm public safety. In 2013, a Justice Department consent decree in New Orleans led to a 28 percent decrease in Taser use by police officers and a 10 percent drop in number of bites from police dogs. In 2012, a Seattle consent decree led to an 18 percent increase in residents approving how police handle traffic stops. A recent Detroit consent decree resulted in a dramatic decrease in fatal officer-involved shootings and uses of force. 

Deemphasizing consent decrees would undermine open government and accountability principles, in part because they provide data collection on stops, uses of force, and other metrics that help police departments improve police practices. Consent decrees can also help correct police actions by ensuring mechanisms are in place to prevent civil rights abuses. 

Deemphasizing police oversight undermines community trust because it signals to Americans— particularly those in communities of color—that law enforcement is above the law. As our chief law enforcement officer, you have a duty to ensure that law enforcement respects the rights of those they protect and serve, which makes law enforcement more just, effective, and safe.

Now is not the time for the Justice Department to abandon efforts to monitor and reform law enforcement practices that harm Americans. With recent high-profile police shootings having a caustic effect on the public’s consciousness, a retreat from oversight of police practices would raise serious questions about the Administration’s commitment to equal justice.

No later than May 15, 2017, we request answers to the following questions:

1.      Please indicate all consent decrees on law enforcement practices that have been agreed to in the past eight years, and provide a brief description of each consent decree, the identity of the parties, the nature of the claims, and the date of the agreement.

2.      Please indicate all pending police reform lawsuits alleging patterns and practices of discrimination that were negotiating consent decrees, which have not been agreed to as of March 20, 2017, and provide a brief description of each case, the identity of the defendants, the nature of the claim, the date of the suit, and the current case status.

Thank you for your attention to these important issues.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

You Meet the Most Amazing People on the Trail

The weather cooperated this weekend, so I went for more than one hike. After all, there are only just over fifty days before my walk to Maine commences, so why not.

This Saturday, some friends dragged me away from housecleaning (thank you!) for a quick jaunt through Watchung Reservation.  While we were there, we ran into two individuals from Westfield; the cosplayers introduced themselves ...

Go Take a Walk

Friday, March 30 was Take a Walk in the Park Day, so I did.  I really didn't have an excuse to not do so; the sun was shining, I had the day off, and I had no plans for the rest of the day.  So after a session with Abbe, my trainer at LifeTime Fitness, I made the short trip to Lake Surprise in Watchung Reservation. 

As I made my way around the lake, it was easy to see how ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_28e0affbe62961f000a8_screen_shot_2018-05-23_at_1.43.51_pm

Fri, May 25, 9:00 AM

Seidler Field, Plainfield

5th Grade D.A.R.E. Graduation BBQ

Arts & Entertainment Education

Carousel_image_5805f638cda07d25a384_pool_openings_2018

Sat, May 26, 12:00 PM

Hannah Atkins , Plainfield

Pool Openings: Hannah Atkins

Community Calendar Sports

Carousel_image_98e6f8cc6152ebe48392_screen_shot_2018-05-21_at_12.27.38_am

Mon, May 28, 10:00 AM

Plainfield City Hall, Plainfield

Memorial Day Service

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...

Union County College President Received Prestigious Award from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

May 25, 2018

CRANFORD – Union County College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin was one of 35 college presidents from throughout the nation to receive a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during PTK Catalyst 2018, the Society’s annual convention, in Kansas City, Missouri, held from April 19-21.

The award honors college presidents who have demonstrated ...

Vehicular Homicide Charges for Driver of Paramus School Bus

May 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The driver of a school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto, it was announced today.

The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was ...

La Promesa de Graduación

May 25, 2018

Querido Plainfield, 

 

Nosotros que creemos en el poder transformativo de la educación sabemos que estamos en un momento del año muy especial. Es el momento que millones de sueños en el mundo se realizan y visiones del futuro se hacen tangibles; es un tiempo de celebración y gratificación, es la felicidad que sentimos cuando llegamos a un ...

School’s Out: Your Exclusive Summer Getaway Guide

May 22, 2018

Summer... a time to do whatever you please without having the stress of school or work.

But like many others, you may find yourself unsure of how to spend your summer days. So, if you’re looking for something cool to do when it’s hot, consider these ideas:

Get Cultured: Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you’re fascinated with art of all sorts from classic to modern, then this ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor ...

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2017)

 

I wanted to like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins because I had enjoyed her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, which was a suspenseful thriller. However, when I finished reading the first part of the Into the Water, I realized that I had not absorbed anything that was happening in the story. I blamed myself for not paying ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.