The nation’s top law enforcement official spoke before a group of law enforcement officials Wednesday at the Genesee Theater in suburban Waukegan – and pulled no punches on the police reform process taking place in Chicago.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the group, in no uncertain terms, that he believes the efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department will lead to more crime and less safety.
“There’s been recent discussions of even more restrictions on police,” Sessions said. “Clearly, that’s not the answer. That’s not the way to make communities safer. We need to get back to community-based policing.”
The comments come as Sessions faces fresh criticism from President Donald Trump, who has been at odds with him for the better part of a year for recusing himself from anything involving Russian election meddling, paving the way for the special counsel’s investigation.
Trump on Wednesday said: “I have no attorney general,” and left open the possibility of firing him.
“I’m disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons, and you understand that,” Trump said on the White House lawn before departing to tour hurricane relief efforts in North Carolina.
Earlier in the day, Sessions made an impromptu visit to the Chicago police 15th District in the Austin neighborhood – reportedly at the request of the local U.S. Attorney John Lausch so he could get a look at the joint efforts of CPD, the U.S. attorney and Cook County police to stop violent crime. CPD brass told him that shooting incidents are down 30 percent this year compared to 2017 and there are 631 fewer shooting victims. A Police Department spokesperson said Sessions expressed his pleasure at the improved numbers, but later in the afternoon, he continued his criticism of reform efforts, specifically over another decree with the ACLU that mandated that police scale down their random street stops and fill out more paperwork.
“The consent decree mandated a major change in Chicago’s community-based policing, including lawful terry stops,” Sessions said. “Professors who have studied Chicago called it the ‘ACLU effect.’ Policing went down, crime went down. So there’s a clear lesson here: If you want more shootings, more death, listen to the ACLU, Antifa, Black Lives Matter and other groups who do not know the reality of policing.”
The ACLU pushed back at his remarks, saying the new stop-and-frisk policy did not lead to more crime.
“Yet again, this administration encourages unlawful behavior and strong-arm tactics, instead of supporting commitments by local police to do the hard work of building respect and relationships with the communities they serve. Black and Latino Chicagoans have lived through the decades of excessive force, unconstitutional and harassing stops, and coercive interrogations leading to false confessions,” said Karen Sheley, director of Police Practices Project for the ACLU of Illinois.
Sessions has also come under fire from immigrant groups for the family separation policy of related to refugees and those crossing the border illegally. Some critics made their displeasure known outside the Genesee Theater, saying they were upset he came to Waukegan.
“This is very scary because he has been implementing laws that cause separation of children with their mothers and fathers. He, along with this president has created this anti-immigrant sentiment, and that’s not what America represents,” said Julie Contreras of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Sessions did not address the persistent badgering from his boss, Trump.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz