Trump’s Law Enforcement Address is Only the Latest Encouragement in a Pattern of Normalizing Police Brutality

Posted on August 9, 2017

In a piece for Portside, columnist Jelani Cobb underscored the dangerous pattern of the Trump administration, spearheaded by President Trump himself, to normalize abusive policing practices. While Trump’s speech last week to police officers in Long Island grabbed headlines for its most brazen and explicit endorsement of such tactics to issue from the administration, Cobb aptly points out that the Trump White House has deliberately worked to embolden and enable law enforcement to engage in acts of brutality since inauguration. 

The most dedicated efforts to enable excessive force by police have come from Trump’s Department of Justice. Last month, Cobb cites, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era prohibition on federal civil forfeiture programs which allowed state and local law enforcement to circumvent regulations restricting the practice. The removal of these federal safeguards makes it all but impossible for states and municipalities to enact meaningful civil forfeiture reform on their own. Cobb also notes Sessions’s policy to essentially halt the practice of issuing consent decrees, an invaluable tool for compelling local police departments to meet concrete reform goals.

This decision came at a particularly devastating time for the city of Chicago, as the Obama Justice Department released a scathing report on abuses within the Chicago Police Department in the waning days of the Obama presidency, only for the Trump administration to shrink from pursuing a consent decree or other action which might initiate real reform in the department. The reinstatement of federal civil forfeiture emerged with similarly frustrating timing, as it followed mere weeks after the Illinois state legislature passed reforms to forfeiture policy in the state with near-unanimous approval

Exacerbating both of these policy changes is the Justice Department’s move to resume aggressive enforcement of, and imposition of harsh sentences for, minor nonviolent drug offenses. This dramatic escalation of the war on drugs to more doggedly pursue minor drug crimes greatly expands the potential number of targets of police brutality. Taken together, these efforts to greatly weaken federal regulations governing policing practices will almost certainly give rise to more rampant police brutality–the Trump administration has all too clearly demonstrated that it is willing to turn a blind eye toward it.

You can read Cobb’s full piece for Portside here

Jonathan Terrasi has been a Research Assistant with the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights since January 2017. His interests include computer security, encryption, history, and philosophy. In his writing, he regularly covers topics on current affairs and political developments, as well as technical analyses and guides on security issues, published on his blog, Cymatic Scanning, and Linux Insider.