Jeff Sessions gave an unexpected warning on police misconduct

attorney general jeff sessions
this July 21, 2017 file photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions
speaks in Philadelphia.

Press/Matt Rourke

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday issued a rare rebuke of
police misconduct on Tuesday in his remarks to the National
Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, just days after
President Donald Trump
urged police officers not to be “too nice”
to suspected

Sessions, who has opposed
federal “consent decrees
” that oversee police
departments and frequently lamented the decline in police morale,
acknowledged in his remarks that trust and
confidence in police among African-Americans
has dropped
significantly over the last three years as instances of police
brutality and fatal shootings have gained national attention.

“We all know the cases of the last several years where, in
confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,” Sessions
said in his
prepared remarks
. “Just as I am committed to defending law
enforcement who use deadly force while lawfully engaged in their
work, I will also hold any officer responsible breaking the law.”

He continued: “You and I know that all it takes is one bad
officer to destroy the reputations of so many who work day in and
day out to build relationships in these communities and serve
with honor and distinction.”

Sessions’ comments did not necessarily represent a pivot in his
previously expressed views on policing practices. He also
commented on political efforts to rein in certain law enforcement
tactics, and suggested that local governments were hamstringing
their police departments.

Sessions, who has consistently denied claims from police reform
advocates that law enforcement agencies struggle systemically
with issues like excessive use of force and unconstitutional
practices, repeated his stance that departments as a whole should
not be punished for individual officers’ behavior.

“We cannot let mayors and city councils run down police in
communities that are suffering only to see crime spike in the
very neighborhoods that need proactive, community policing the
most,” he said. “That helps no one. That protects no one.”

Sessions also did not directly criticize Trump for his comments
on Friday, in which he appeared to encourage officers to handle
suspects roughly after arresting them.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being
thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown
in, rough,” Trump said. “I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.'”

He continued: “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and
you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their
hand over. Like, ‘Don’t hit their head’ and they’ve just killed

“‘Don’t hit their head.’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away.’

The remarks provoked a fierce backlash from the public, some law
enforcement agencies, and even the
acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration
, who sent
his staff an agency-wide memo urging officers to “act honorably”
and “earn and keep the public trust.”

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