black honor student Jordan Edwards by police in Balch Springs, Texas,
and the failure of the Justice Department to charge Baton Rouge
police officers in the
Alton Sterling provide further proof of a systemic problem of police
the Justice Department, now led by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions,
is unlikely to tackle this issue.
top student and athlete, Edwards, 15, was shot to death when a police
officer fired his rifle into a car in the Dallas suburb. The officer
was later terminated.
comes as the Justice Department has refused to charge two police
officers in the July 5, 2016, convenience store shooting of Sterling.
A bystander's video showed police pinning Sterling to the ground
before shooting him.
Sterling case marks the first high-profile police shooting decision
made under Sessions' watch. And it appears as if Sessions'
pro-police, law-and-order philosophy is already starting to influence
the way decisions are made in his department.
we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the attorney general to
press charges in the death of Edwards - or anyone killed by the
police, for that matter.
record on race and civil rights is legendary. In 1986, during the
Reagan years, then-judicial nominee Sessions was denied a seat on the
federal bench due to
of racial animosity
blacks. Lawyers at the Justice Department and the US Attorney's
Office in Alabama had testified that Sessions called a black
prosecutor a "boy" and warned him "to be careful what
he said to white folks," told a white civil rights attorney he
was "a disgrace to his race," and said the ACLU and the
NAACP were "un-American"
and "communist-inspired" organizations that "forced
civil rights down the throats of people."
Scott King even wrote a letter to Congress at the time, urging
members to block his nomination because of his alleged malicious and
of civil rights activists
he was a US attorney in Alabama. And though Sessions denied these
allegations, his nomination did not make it out of committee --
notably in a Republican-controlled Senate.
supporters say he has changed since those allegations were made
against him in the 1980s, but many - myself included - are still
the 2016 campaign, Sessions was a devoted cheerleader for
then-candidate Trump's law and order, stop-and-frisk platform.
Despite his controversial record, Sessions was confirmed for the
position of America's top prosecutor by the Senate.
received the endorsement of the
Order of Police
who believed he would side with the police.
after he was confirmed, David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader,
"Thank God After 8 Horrible Years Of Black Radical Marxists We
Finally Have An AG Who Will Defend Decent American People - Rather
addition, the white nationalist website Daily Stormer applauded
as "An Aggressive Anti-Black Racist," predicting that
"We're Going To Get Absolutely Everything We Wanted."
Klan and white nationalism, and that all claims of racism are a
distortion of the truth.
so far Sessions has not disappointed his supporters. Although there
is no evidence for it, he has attributed an increase in violent crime
police officers, claiming "in recent years law enforcement as a
whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable
deeds of a few bad actors."
Sessions has made it clear that he will take a step back and review
than 20 consent decrees
over 20 cities in the US. Consent decrees mean that these cities have
agreed to work with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice
Department, under court supervision, to overhaul their police
departments, enact certain reforms and improve relations with their
said he believes these consent decrees lower police morale, and he
opposes the federal government's role in "dictating to local
police how to do their jobs -- or spending scarce federal resources
to sue them in court."
problems policing in America is not a matter of a few bad apples, as
Sessions suggests, but a systemic issue in police culture and law
enforcement practices. These tragic, senseless incidents, such as the
killing of Jordan Edwards and Alton Sterling, are a reminder of this
reality. And there are likely to be more, particularly if police feel
they will not be prosecuted for using excessive or unwarranted force.
is no reason to believe that Sessions will do anything to reform
plagued police departments, hold them accountable to the public or
seek justice for the victims of police violence. Despite his image as
being pro-police, he serves neither the police nor the communities
they serve when he normalizes the festering wounds of police
brutality and misconduct and the longstanding mistreatment of
communities of color.
innocent, unarmed honor students are shot, we have a problem.
the new attorney general will not solve this problem - he will only
make it worse, largely because he does not believe a problem exists.
This commentary was originally published by CNN