“The Obama Justice Department is back”


“The Obama administration made a habit of exacerbating tensions created by police-involved incidents involving black men.”

Obama Encore: Biden Justice Department Announces Investigation of Minneapolis Police Department

By Andrew C. McCarthy – April 21, 2021 1:37 PM

As foreseen here during the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Merrick Garland and other Biden nominees for top DOJ slots, the Obama Justice Department is back, and that means the police departments of the United States are in for radical surgery.

Fired Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer Derek Chauvin was convicted yesterday afternoon on all three homicide counts in the racially charged George Floyd case. With the inevitability of the morning sun, AG Garland announced this morning that the Justice Department is launching a “pattern or practice” investigation of the MPD. The pretext is that the evidence in Chauvin’s case suggests that the police department as a whole is riven by — all together now! — systemic racism. (See the report by NR’s Zachary Evans.) This, despite the fact that some of the most compelling testimony in Chauvin’s trial came from MPD officials, who related how the actions of Chauvin and the three other subsequently fired cops (who are scheduled to be tried jointly in the Floyd case this summer) ran afoul of the MPD’s existing use-of-force, medical-assistance, and community-policing guidelines.

You knew this was coming.

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The Obama administration made a habit of exacerbating tensions created by police-involved incidents involving black men. Its Justice Department then exploited such controversies to carry out a federalization of local law-enforcement in conformance with Obama-preferred progressive policing. The feds don’t go after the locals on the individual case — there will be no civil-rights criminal prosecution of Chauvin and the other ex-cops. Instead, the DOJ uses vague standards Democrats have written into civil law, amplified by the Justice Department’s gargantuan budget for litigating against states and municipalities, to “reform” entire police departments.

I explained the scheme seven years ago:

[Attorney General] Holder and [President Obama] are not banging the civil-rights drum because they believe these are prosecutable [individual] cases. It is just a pretext for unleashing Justice Department community organizers on state and municipal police departments. . . .

[T]he Justice Department civil-rights investigations Holder is fond of announcing are not like public trials. They occur out of the public eye, where feverish Justice Department claims are not aired and scrutinized. More significant, they happen with the air of extortion created by the nearly $28 billion in funding Congress keeps giving Justice every year, no matter how many congressional investigations it obstructs, how many false statements its officials make, and how much it politicizes law enforcement. The investigations are taxpayer-funded jihads that states, cities, and towns know they lack the resources to fight off.

Here is how the game works. Holder streams in behind a tragedy that [Al] Sharpton and Obama have demagogued. He announces a civil-rights investigation. Eventually, he backs down from the threat of an indictment in the individual case … [but announces that DOJ’s probe] has metastasized into a thoroughgoing civil-rights probe of the state or local police department’s training, practices, and . . . drumroll . . . institutional racism.

. . . States and their subdivisions know they cannot afford to go toe-to-toe with the Beltway behemoth. Big cities, moreover, are governed by Democrats sympathetic to the Obama/Holder race obsessions — they’re happy to have the feds come in and hamstring police with “social justice” guidelines that would be a hard sell politically. So, the Justice Department makes the locals an offer they can’t refuse: A consent decree that makes the Treaty of Versailles look like a slap on the wrist. This device is the license by which the Obama administration is remaking state law enforcement in its own image.

How do they get away with this? Well, . . . [in] 1994 — the last time before 2009 that Democrats controlled the White House and both congressional chambers — they rammed through a monstrosity known as the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.” A Clinton deputy attorney general named Eric Holder was among the first to exploit it.

Consistent with the Left’s view of the states as cauldrons of racism, the statute criminalizes “any government authority” that “engage[s] in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of [federal] rights, privileges, or immunities.” It is the civil-rights laws writ large — imposed on whole cities rather than threatened against individual police officers and citizens. And for good measure, the act encourages the attorney general to file civil lawsuits in federal court to “obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the [offensive] pattern or practice.”

Under this scheme, there are now more than 20 major American cities and their police departments beholden to the Obama Justice Department. . . . On Thursday, in fact, Holder took time out from stirring the Staten Island pot [i.e., the Eric Garner case] to pounce on Cleveland, which is still reeling from last month’s racially charged case involving the death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice.

The boy was reportedly pointing a gun at people in a park, prompting an emergency call to police, one of whom tragically shot him to death only to find that the gun was a BB gun. Again, other than the happenstance that the boy was black and the officer was white, race had no bearing on the case. But that didn’t stop Holder from invoking the boy, along with Garner’s death in Staten Island, in announcing that Justice’s investigation had found a “pattern or practice” of excessive force used by Cleveland police. As he spoke, he was flanked by Mayor Frank Jackson, the Democrat who presided over this allegedly rogue police regime for the last decade — upon inheriting it from Jane Campbell, the last mayor . . . a Democrat who, you’ll be shocked to learn, moved on to Harvard’s Kennedy School to teach how cities should be run. Mayor Jackson has, of course, agreed to the installation of a “monitor,” who will see to it that Cleveland police conduct themselves in an Obama-compliant manner.

Seattle is another of the big cities that has been snagged by the DOJ. It has been under a consent decree since the Justice Department targeted it in 2012 for a “pattern or practice” of violations, allegedly including “subjecting individuals to excessive force” — in particular, “using excessive force against persons of color,” and “escalating situations and using excessive force when arresting individuals for minor offenses.”

You may recall that the tide of rampant crime in New York City was turned when, under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the police began cracking down on minor offenses — not untaxed cigarette sales but real violations that had nearly destroyed the city’s quality of life. What ensued was a miraculous transformation, with the Big Apple becoming the safest big city in America.

That policing model is under attack now — just as the NYPD’s extraordinarily successful counterterrorism model has been undermined by Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. As Holder was making his Cleveland splash, Bill de Blasio, New York City’s hard-left mayor, opportunistically — and in the absence of any evidence — pointed to Garner’s death as proof that “the way we go about policing has to change. . . . People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives.”

The police departments of this country are now more representative of their communities than at any time in American history. No one knows more than they do that black lives matter. No one knows it better than the MPD, whose leader, Medaria Arradondo, the city’s first black police chief and a star prosecution witness in Chauvin’s trial. He is a disciple of Obama-style progressive police reform who rose through the ranks by investigating police misconduct (and suing the MPD for discrimination in promotions, pay, and discipline).

It may come as a surprise to Chief Arradondo that he’s been presiding over a systemically racist police department. He and the other officials convinced the jury that Chauvin was an outlier who did not represent the MPD principles. Is anyone surprised that they failed to convince the social engineers of the Obama Justice Department (now doing business as the Biden Justice Department)?

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Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, an NR contributing editor, and author of Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. @AndrewCMcCarthy

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