Attorney General Sessions Announces New Chicago Gun Crimes Prosecution Team, Files Brief to Stop Dangerous Consent Decree

Following an order from President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that he is providing more resources for law enforcement in Chicago and filing a brief opposing a proposed consent decree on Chicago police.

“Public safety, security and order are the fundamental responsibility of the executive branches of our state, local and federal governments,” Attorney General Sessions said. “This constitutional duty rests primarily, for large cities, on their police departments. These departments are composed of some of our finest citizens who daily display courage, respect for law, judgment, and integrity.  It is these officers who stand between crime and security.  There is one government institution, and one alone, that has the ability to make Chicago safer—that is the Chicago Police Department.  Our goal should be to empower it to fulfill its duties, not to restrict its proper functioning or excessively demean the entire Department for the errors of a few.  Make no mistake: unjustified restrictions on proper policing and disrespect for our officers directly led to this tragic murder surge in Chicago.

“At a fundamental level, there is a misperception that police are the problem and that their failures, their lack of training, and their abuses create crime.  But the truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem.  The results of the ACLU settlement in November 2015, as revealed by Judge Cassel’s study, established this fact dramatically, conclusively, and most painfully for the City of Chicago.  When police are restrained from using lawfully established policies of community engagement, when arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged.  There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement.”

On October 8, 2018, President Trump directed Attorney General Sessions to work with local law enforcement to help Chicago police officers do their jobs and reduce violent crime.

Pursuant to the President’s order, Attorney General Sessions is sending five additional violent crime prosecutors to Chicago.  With these additional resources, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch is creating a Gun Crimes Prosecution Team that will focus on investigating and prosecuting gun cases from the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago.  Working with state and local law enforcement, this new unit will help ensure that Chicago’s most dangerous criminals are charged quickly after arrest and prosecuted, disrupting the cycle of violence in the neighborhoods most in need.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will assign five Violent Crime Coordinators (VCCs) to U.S Attorney Lausch’s Project Safe Neighborhoods team.  These experienced VCCs will join the existing ATF VCC in Chicago in the daily review of firearm arrests and seizures in the city to ensure the most violent firearm offenders are promptly and effectively prosecuted in federal court.

In June 2017, Attorney General Sessions created the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force, a permanent team of 21 additional permanent ATF special agents, six intelligence research specialists, 12 task force officers from the Chicago Police Department, two task force officers from the Illinois State Police, and four ballistics specialists who are focused on the most violent offenders in the most violent areas.  Working with the Chicago Police Department, the Strike Force has enhanced substantially firearms enforcement in the City of Chicago. 

Since the Strike Force began operation, ATF firearm arrests in Chicago have increased by 24.6 percent; ATF firearm seizures/recoveries have increased by 45.8 percent, and CPD has increased firearm seizures by 11.3 percent.  As of September 2018, violent crime has been reduced in all four police districts where the Strike Force has been assigned, including a 49 percent decrease in homicides in the Seventh District and a 37 percent decrease in shootings in the Ninth District.

On October 9, Attorney General Sessions announced that the Department of Justice will file a statement of interest in the state of Illinois’ lawsuit against Chicago over its policing policies.  The statement of interest seeks to prevent the imposition of a consent decree on Chicago’s police officers.

After Chicago reached a settlement with the ACLU in 2015 and the settlement went into effect in January of 2016, the use of Terry stops in Chicago declined by 75 percent.  Chicago police made 24 percent fewer arrests in 2016 than they made in 2015, and about half as many arrests as they made in 2011.

In 2016, Chicago saw the biggest single-year increase in the murder rate in at least 60 years, with murders 68.5 percent above the previous 10-year average.  More people were killed in Chicago in 2016 than in any of the previous 20 years.   More people were murdered in Chicago in 2016 than in New York and Los Angeles combined—even though Chicago has one-fifth of the population of those two cities.  An estimated 22 percent of the nationwide increase in homicide in 2016 happened in Chicago alone.

Chicago’s agreement with the ACLU remains in effect.

In August 2017, the state of Illinois sued Chicago, alleging the use of excessive force and racially biased policing.  In September 2018, Illinois and Chicago submitted a proposed consent decree to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for approval.  The court has provided a public comment period on the proposed consent decree, which is set to close on October 12.

Today the Department has filed a statement of interest in this lawsuit, commenting that there is no need for a consent decree on the Chicago Police Department, let alone the consent decree the parties have proposed.

The Department’s Statement of Interest argues that the proposed consent decree would deprive local, democratically accountable officials of the flexibility they need to ensure the safety of the people of Chicago.  Specifically, the Statement of Interest explains that the proposed consent decree (1) is not narrowly tailored to remedy specific violations of federal law; (2) unfairly inhibits the Chicago Superintendent of Police—who is accountable to the elected Mayor—from exercising his duty to administer the Chicago Police Department; (3) turns over long-term budgetary control of the Chicago Police Department to the federal court and the proposed Monitor, and (4) uses vague or subjective terms to define key metrics for compliance.

The Statement of Interest “asks the court not to enter the Proposed Consent Decree but, rather, to allow state and local officials—and Chicago’s brave front-line police officers—to engage in flexible and localized efforts to advance the goal of safe, effective, and constitutional policing in Chicago.”

On March 31, 2017, Attorney General Sessions ordered a review of the Department’s existing or proposed consent decrees to ensure that they fully and effectively promote public and officer safety, uphold civil rights, and respect the honorable work of law enforcement officers.

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Author: October 12, 2018