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D.O.J. Use-of-Force Review of LVMPD -- Final Report D.O.J. Use-of-Force Review of LVMPD -- Final Report

Two weeks ago, a white police officer was acquitted by a judge in the shooting death of a black man in St. Louis, even though his shouted intention to kill the victim was captured on tape during the pursuit, and despite the fact that the only DNA found on a gun in the dead man's car belonged to the cop himself.

Just hours later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided that we should accept this an ordinary event in law enforcement, so he pulled the plug on a successful program that helps reform police departments after controversial incidents such as officer-involved shootings.

Sessions figures cops don't need federal help improving their Use of Force policies, so he drastically scaled back on the Collaborative Reform Process, a voluntary program created by the Department of Justice's office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

The program began as a pilot in Las Vegas in 2011, where metro police allowed COPS to analyze its police-involved shootings over five years. By 2013, the Vegas PD implemented 90 percent of the recommendations made by the federal agency, reforms related to reality-based training, de-escalation methods, use of body cams, and changes in its review board.

The results were profound. Over those three years, use-of-force incidents dropped 25 percent. Accountability also returned: Before the reform process, 97 percent of deadly force incidents were validated by the review board; after the board was reshuffled to allow civilian reps on the review board to out-vote members of the department, bad cops were more likely to fired or prosecuted.

In the 14 other departments that adopted the program - from Fayetteville, N.C. to Salinas, Calif. - these results were typical.

Now Sessions is ending it out of respect for "local control."

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He doesn't seem to care that the program was voluntary, and that most departments want to get better. Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department's civil rights division, sees Sessions' act as "another indication of the full retreat from police reform by Jeff Sessions."

No surprise there. Earlier this year, Sessions reversed the Obama directive to restrict shipments of surplus military weaponry to police departments because the previous administration "was "more concerned about the image of law enforcement being too 'militarized' than they were about our safety."

He doesn't believe in policing the police: He opposes consent decrees, the court-enforced settlements with cities - such as Newark - that are designed intend to eliminate profiling.

It's part of a radical remaking of the DOJ, and most of it has an unmistakable stench of malevolence: This is the Attorney General who even opposed the extension of hate crimes protections, and flaunts an open hostility to African-Americans, gays, and immigrants.

In the Senate, he fought justice reforms at every turn, leading the opposition of a bipartisan bill that would have eliminated mandatory minimums and reduced sentences for drug crimes. When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, he called it "good news for the South."          

When he was Alabama AG, he even prosecuted black civil rights activists for simply trying to get out the vote. He was laughed out of court by the judge.

And now, our top law enforcement officer is the second most dangerous man in America.

The AG's job has never before been more important, if only because of the sitting president's lack of interest in the rule of law, ignorance of constitutional norms, and hostility to civil liberties.

Since President Trump's inauguration, in fact, COPS had not published a single assessment or follow-up report for any of the 15 police departments it agreed to help through Collaborative Reform. 

St. Louis was one of them, a tragic postscript for a city where excessive police force is now part of the Sessions legacy.

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