Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with some of the country’s top law enforcement officials just hours after his major border policy roll-out Tuesday.
Sessions gave the keynote address to the mid-year meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Litchfield Park, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. The speech followed his first tour of the U.S.-Mexico border as Attorney General of the United States. He appraised the attendees, including the heads of dozens of state and local law enforcement agencies, of the Trump administration’s vision for crime reduction. “Leadership from the top is essential,” he said in his remarks as prepared, “and President Trump has given us clear direction.”
Border security once again took center stage. Sessions built on the remarks he made earlier as he unveiled the new polices and guidance. He added a dig at so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions”:
The Department of Justice is working with cities and states that are serious about enforcing the law and making their neighborhoods safer. I thank and applaud those jurisdictions. Please know that you have the full support of our Department — and that we are ready to provide more resources to help you keep your communities safe.
But there are holdouts. Some mayors and city councils, and even a police chief and a sheriff here and there, are refusing to work with the federal government, choosing instead to protect the criminal aliens who harm public safety. Today, I urge them to work with us.
Opposition to “sanctuary city” resistance to federal immigration enforcement has been a centerpiece of Sessions’s tenure at the Department of Justice. He has been exploring methods, including revoking Justice Department grants, for compelling these jurisdictions to cooperate.
In addition to immigration, Sessions addressed the wider issue of violent crime in America. Citing FBI statistics, Sessions raised concerns about the apparent end of the three-decade long decline in violent crime and the significant uptick over the last two years. “My fear is that this surge in violent crime is not a ‘blip,’ but the start of a dangerous new trend — one that puts at risk the hard-won gains that have made our country a safer place,” he said.
The Attorney General then touted President Donald Trump’s executive orders on crime and the creation of a task force to integrate feedback from local law enforcement. With these measures, Sessions was confident violent crime could be brought back under control. “Not many people are capable of murder and other violent crimes. The more of them we take off the streets so they can no longer harm others, the safer our neighborhoods will be,” he said.
Sessions closed his address with a message that his justice department would stand behind law enforcement officers:
Unfortunately, in recent years, as you know, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the crimes and unacceptable deeds of a few bad actors. Amid this intense criticism, morale has gone down, while the number of officers killed in the line of duty has gone up.
Sessions specifically called out the consent decrees with which some police departments accused of engaging in misconduct have been hit. His Justice Department has sought to walk back some of the decrees agreed to in the waning days of the Obama administration. “These decrees are not a silver bullet for solving the tough issues confronting some police departments,” Sessions said, raising concerns over the diversion of police resources to “highly-paid monitors.”