As part of his reelection campaign, Donald Trump would have us believe that he's jumped aboard the criminal justice reform bandwagon. He spent $5 million on a Super Bowl ad showing his signing of the First Step Act, which forced the resentencing of thousands of drug and nonviolent federal prisoners across the country.
That law - which President Barack Obama couldn't get through a Republican Congress - is surely positive.
But in classic bait-and-switch fashion, Trump has actually undermined most police reform efforts, in particular dismissing most in the post-George Floyd moment. Indeed, the mark of the Trump administration has been overturning any forward-looking plans pushed through during Obama's presidency. Indeed, if there is any hope for lasting nationwide police reform, it will only occur once Trump has been evicted.
Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with Trump's blessing, the Justice Department ended initiatives designed to address the initial wave of police-involved deaths of civilians in the first half of the last decade.
In 2017, Sessions' DOJ blew up the Collaborative Reform Initiative, effectively ending federal efforts to reform local police departments and improve police-community relations. The following year, as he was departing, Sessions authorized a memo crippling DOJ's method of issuing consent decrees on cities to grant the federal government greater civil rights oversight.
The Obama administration used consent decrees following social unrest from police-involved deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Cleveland and other cities. Sessions memo made more difficult drafting future consent decrees while undermining existing ones.
No wonder Trump would, in a public address, hope that cops aren't "too nice" to suspects upon arrest. No wonder Trump repeats unconditional support for police and calls Black Lives Matter a "symbol of hate."
He doesn't want constructive policing reform. He wants an enemy.
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