Local Government Will Have To Step In For DOJ To Protect Black People Under Trump Administration
America's criminal justice system is in more trouble than you could ever imagine
November 14, 2016 at 6:27 pm
America's criminal justice system is in more trouble than you could ever imagine. Reports are already swirling about who the next U.S. Attorney General will be. If you thought for a second that Loretta Lynch would continue to serve as the US AG, you thought wrong. There is a new Sherriff in town and he brings with him a new set of folks to tackle the criminal justice system in America. Trump has already begun appointing key members of his administration. If the two appointees who were already announced don't scare you, let me make it clear for you. Not only did we just get the poster child for white supremacy as the Chief Strategist, but we also got his white supremacist brother, Senator Jeff Sessions as our Attorney General.
Here's a quick briefer on Sessions. He's a conservative Republican from Alabama. I could stop there but y'all deserve more. He was nominated by President Ronald Raegan for a federal judgeship. Didn't happen. Why? Because he has no problem saying out loud how he feels about black people and our civil rights. He has referred to civil rights groups as "Un- American" and "Communist Inspired".He also said that the KKK was fine until he found out that they smoke pot. Oh and he enjoys referring to African American federal prosecutors as 'boy". It's so bad that a few members of the NAACP staged a "sit in" in his office and were arrested, in an effort to show how badly we don't want him.Had enough yet?
So here we are. We should be concerned. This man is now in charge of the Department of Justice. If ever Justice was blind, she indeed is now. The Department of Justice will be less likely to intervene in matters of civil rights violations. In other words, y'all go ahead and work it out amongst yourselves down there in them cities. So that leaves us with literally having to figure out a way to work it out when it comes to police reform, criminal justice reform, heck just protecting our civil liberties. These issues will have to become a battleground for local government officials. Otherwise, welcome to the Wild Wild West.
If you aren't familiar with the major role the DOJ has played under the Obama Administration, let me provide a few highlights.The only two black attorney generals came under this administration (Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch). After President Clinton's 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act catastrophe, President Obama and his administration have worked hard to commute the sentences of mostly drug offenders serving the mandatory minimum. President Obama ordered the DOJ to ban solitary confinement of juveniles in federal custody. The administration has also taken on criminal justice reform by entering into 23 consent decrees with local police departments. Currently, the DOJ is enforcing 19 agreements, including 14 court-enforceable consent decrees. Outside of commuting sentences, consent decrees have become a powerful tool in addressing police reform.
I know that there are many critics of consent decrees. I understand. Nothing is perfect including consent decrees, but it's a start in the right direction. A consent decree allows the Department of Justice to file a civil suit against a police department when they believe that the department has practices or patterns that violate the civil rights of others. The consent decree serves as an agreement to resolve the dispute between DOJ and the police department without the admission of liability by the department. We have seen this put into practice in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Cleveland. Even though the consent decrees that the DOJ has entered into are already binding and won't be reversed, the momentum of change will be. That is unless we take on the job that the DOJ would have continued had Hilary Clinton won (maybe, you can't be too sure about oh girl).
Local police departments are directly tied into local politics. Because of this, it gives us the power to create change. The days of calling on Loretta Lynch are numbered. Trump has promised us safe communities and equal justice under the law, but I have a hard time buying into it. If a black president couldn't promise us equal justice under the law, I doubt a man who would consider me nasty can. So to combat whatever will be thrown our way, I'm putting out a call to action, to make our cities a battleground for criminal justice reform.
For starters, I've heard many of my fellow millennials tell me that they knew who was running for President, but not for Mayor or City Council. Learn who your mayor and or city manager is (it depends on how your local government is set up). In most cases, they have the power to hire and fire the police chief. They also have the power to sign executive orders and administrative policies that directly affect the practices of your local police department. Telling someone to attend a city council meeting sounds like recycled rhetoric. It's not. The only person more thirsty for camera time than a member of Love and Hip Hop is a local politician. They want in on whatever comes across as positive and a potential win for them. Make your concerns, their concerns. Craft their agenda to meet the needs of the communities in which they serve. You don't have to take on the entire city council, but you do need to take on the one who services the area in which you live. The last thing I urge you to think about doing is learning more about the Freedom of Information laws and Open Data policies in your city ( The federal government explains FOIA on a federal level here). You have a right to information. If the DOJ isn't there to probe into how many police involved shootings there were or reports of excessive force, file an FOIA and get it. If the police department isn't proactively releasing data to constituents in a user-friendly format, make them.
I am completely here for the outpour of protestors taking to the streets. I also realize that January 20th is closer than we think and time is not on our side. Gone are the days where we can blindly hope that someone will intervene or fight our battles for us. With a new sheriff in town, it's time to show him who's really the boss.