Jeff Sessions dismisses DOJ reports on police abuse without bothering to read them
Apparently Jeff Sessions is not interested in doing his job.
In a briefing with reporters yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’s still deciding whether or not to implement reforms for the Chicago Police Department. The reforms, suggested by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, were part of a blistering report on the city’s police agency that was published at the tail end of President Obama’s second term. This section from the Reuters write-up of the briefingjumped out at me:
Sessions said he had seen summaries of both the Chicago report and the report that the Obama Justice Department completed on police in Ferguson.
“Some of it was pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based,” Sessions said.
Of course, the summary for any study will be anecdotal, and not particularly heavy on data. That’s the whole point of a summary. I’m not entirely sure what Sessions means by “scientifically-based.” But the DOJ’s Ferguson study is based on a wealth of data, much of supplied by the legal aid group ArchCity Defenders and the advocacy group Better Together. And much of the data from those organizations comes from the municipalities in St. Louis County themselves — data from police agencies, city budgets, and municipal courts. If Sessions couldn’t find data in the Ferguson study, it’s because he didn’t look for it.
And as it turns out, he really didn’t look for it.
Asked by The Huffington Post whether he had read the Civil Rights Division’s investigative reports on the police departments in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, Sessions conceded he had not. But, he said, he didn’t think they were necessarily reliable.
“I have not read those reports, frankly.”
Just to be clear, the U.S. attorney general is currently deciding whether to continue to enforce civil rights reforms suggested by the Civil Rights Division of DOJ in Chicago and Ferguson — but he’s apparently pondering that decision without having read the reports supporting those reforms. He only read the summaries. Not surprisingly, he found that the summaries lack data. As summaries tend to do.
To be fair, the DOJ’s report on Chicago, flabbergasting as it was, was largely anecdotal. There’s a good reason for that. As the report itself notes, the Chicago Police Department is notoriously bad at collecting data. They city couldn’t even tell investigators how many people its police officers had shot. The investigators couldn’t cite reliable data on police complaints, because they found ample evidence that people who try to file complaints are subject to threats and intimidation, and that the complaints themselves are poorly investigated and poorly documented. In other words, the report was largely anecdotal because anecdotes were all investigators had. But the very lack of reliable data is in itself troubling, and indicative of a problem. From the report: . . .
The US is in for some bad times.