‘Want more shootings? Listen to the ACLU, Black Lives Matter & Antifa’ – Jeff Sessions tells cops
“There’s a clear lesson here,” Sessions told law enforcement officials at a conference on Wednesday. “If you want more shootings and more death, then listen to the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], Black Lives Matter, or Antifa. If you want public safety, then listen to the police professionals who have been studying this for 35 years.”
Like most American cities, Chicago’s murder rate steadily declined from the 1990s onwards, as violent crime in general receded. However, in 2016, the city experienced the biggest single-year increase in murders in 60 years – 765 people were shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed, up from an average of 454 one decade previously.
As Chicago’s mostly black southside echoed with gunfire, the city recorded more homicides and shootings than Los Angeles and New York City combined. While crime had been slowly creeping upwards in the preceding years, it exploded in 2016.
But what changed that year?
In 2015, in the wake of a spate of police killings of young black men across the country, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report on stop-and-frisk searches in Chicago. The practice, they argued, unfairly targeted the black community, and the organization threatened the city with a lawsuit.
The city buckled and signed a ‘consent decree’ with the ACLU, which required officers to submit a detailed report after each and every on-the-street stop. Dreading the increased workload, officers scaled back their stops, and as Sessions told officers on Wednesday, “policing went down and crime went up.”
Sessions referred to a 2018 University of Utah study to prove his point. The study found that the near-total halt in stops was met with a 58-percent increase in homicides. This increase in crime cost the city $1.5 billion, and also disproportionately affected minorities – 78 percent of the city’s murder victims were black, while 94 percent were minorities. The researchers called the increase the ‘ACLU effect’.
“So by January 2016, the city was on fire,” former Chicago US Attorney Zachary Fardon wrote in a letter before his retirement in 2017. “Cops had to worry about the ACLU deal. And many of them became scared and demoralized… So cops stopped making stops. And kids started shooting more – because they could, and because the rule of law, law enforcement, had been de-legitimized. And that created an atmosphere of chaos.”
While the Utah study and Fardon’s testimony are damning, a 2017 report from Sessions’ own Department of Justice found that the reasons for Chicago’s murder spike were “broadly debated and inarguably complex.” In addition to the consent decree, it found that a lack of adequate training for officers policing the streets, and a lack of systems to punish officers who break the law, were also responsible for the force’s ineffectiveness at getting the murder rate in check.
Sessions, however, drew attention to New York City’s tough policing policies, credited with reducing the city’s murder rate from 2,605 in 1990 to 292 last year; and to Los Angeles, where the murder rate fell by half between 2005 and 2013.
“The proof is in,” Sessions said on Wednesday. “It can no longer be denied: disrespect and lack of support for police officers has real world consequences.” As Sessions was speaking, four people - including a 13-year-old girl and a six-month-old baby - were shot when a masked gunman opened fire on a vehicle in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood.
On average, one person is shot every two hours, and one murdered every 14 hours in Chicago. After a weekend bloodbath left 71 people shot last month – none of them by police – activists led by Black Lives Matter pressed for further restrictions on the Chicago PD to be included in the consent decree. These included a requirement for police officers to fill out a report every time they point a gun or taser at a suspect, banning officers from unholstering their weapons unless lethal force becomes necessary, and further restrictions on “racial profiling and discriminatory policing.”
“If the city refuses to include these demands in the decree, this most recent effort to address police violence and racism could fail like every effort that has come before it,” Jonathon Projansky of Black Lives Matter Chicago told reporters at the time.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police responded by saying that the weekend murder-fest could be “a hint of what’s to come” if BLM’s “war on police” continues.
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