The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department to ‘pull back’ on investigating police abuses

The Justice Department will “pull back” from investigations into alleged civil rights abuses by local police departments, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday in addressing what had been a hallmark of the Obama administration.

In his first major speech as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, Sessions told a gathering of state attorneys general that the intervention had made police less aggressive, and he vowed to crack down on violent crime as a central part of his tenure. Sessions used more measured language than did President Donald Trump, who in his inauguration speech vowed to end “this American carnage,” and the attorney general did not give many specifics outside of plans to step up prosecution of drug and gun crimes and increase border security.

“The Justice Department has an absolute duty to ensure that police operate within the law…but we need…to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” Sessions said. “We are going to try to pull back on [police departments], and I don’t think it’s wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights. I think it’s out of a concern to make the lives of people, particularly in poor, minority communities…safer, happier.”

The national murder rate is down substantially from a 1980 peak, but some cities have experienced a recent uptick in killings, a trend Sessions said was “driving a sense that we’re in danger.” Some criminal justice experts say further study is needed before drawing broad conclusions.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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