The president made light of police brutality in a speech last week while the attorney general has scorned the Obama administration’s efforts to review police misconduct and to forge consent agreements on reforms with police departments from Seattle to Baltimore.
President Donald Trump often seems more shock jock than president. He likes to say or tweet outrageous things to prove that he’s not just another politician. But now he is president; his words have impact, and his posturing can be dangerous.
Last week, he essentially endorsed police brutality before a gathering of police officers in Long Island: “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’ ”
His remarks received significant applause, but hours later the Suffolk County Police Department issued a statement making it clear that it “will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.”
The cries of Baltimore’s Freddy Gray, of Amadou Diallo, Manuel Loggins Jr., Ronald Madison, Kendra James, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling and many more could be heard from their graves. Each was a black man or woman who died at the hands of police.
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Trump’s words are not simply bluster; his Attorney General Jeff Sessions is intent on turning them into policy. Sessions has scorned the Obama administration’s efforts to review police misconduct and to forge consent agreements on reforms with police departments from Seattle to Baltimore. He spreads the myth that reform handicaps law enforcement. In a nation that locks up more of its people than any in the world, he’s instructed U.S. attorneys to seek the harshest penalties available for those found guilty of violating the law.
Over the last decade, from Ferguson to Chicago to New York to Baltimore, our cities have witnessed major demonstrations and more in response to police brutality. Black Lives Matter demonstrations — remarkable nonviolent, civil disobedience — put police reform on the national agenda.
We began to see a bipartisan consensus emerging around sentencing reform, closing down privately owned for-profit prisons and reforming police practices from body cameras to community policing.
This reform consensus was emerging because police brutality not only tramples individual rights; it also impedes community law enforcement….