Who Will Police the Police in the Trump Years?

          If people want Washington to stop ignoring them they must stop ignoring their civic duty to become involved …. 

With the newly sworn-in president and a change in administrations I’m wondering what will become of the Justice Department’s practice of investigating troubled law enforcement agencies.

I have a suggestion about how poorly disciplined police departments can be made more responsive but, first, a quick look back. 

The Obama administration investigated 25 cop shops around the country, looking into complaints of excessive force, racial bias, poor officer training and jail conditions.

When DOJ investigators find a pattern of “bad practices” in a department they have authority to threaten to file a federal lawsuit against the agency unless it agrees to a legally binding “consent decree” to fix the problems. An independent watchdog usually monitors progress. Under Attorney Generals Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch the DOJ aggressively pursued a record number of consent decrees, 12 in all, with police departments as far flung as Albuquerque, Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri, New Orleans and, most recently, Chicago.

Will the next Attorney General follow this trend?

Assuming Senator Jeff Sessions is the next A.G. the answer is: probably not.  At his recent confirmation hearing Sessions made it clear he thinks threatening lawsuits against whole police departments for the actions of a few bad apples, “Undermine(s) the respect for police officers and create(s) an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness.” Sessions added, “We need to be careful before we do that.” He also made it clear he will do nothing to reverse the existing agreements, they remain in force.

So, who will police the police if the Trump administration pulls back on investigating departments?

Here’s a novel thought. How about us? How about if we, the citizens who live in the communities where law enforcement departments have run off the rails, seriously yet civilly demand action from our local politicians? You know, hold their feet to the fire until police chiefs are forced to either change the behavior of offending officers or fire them. If the Chiefs fail, then they face termination.

If we, the people, learned anything from the last election it was this:  voters have heft. A determined citizenry can oust ineffective elected officials and demand more accountability from all.

And if they – the politicians who think first about themselves and their party before the community – learned anything from the last election it should have been this: citizens are fed-up-to-here with politicians who say they will do something about a problem but take no action. It was hard to miss the clarion call from voters to politicians to either put up or shove off.

DOJ Can Tell States and Cities What To Do

Now I agree, sometimes an outsider is needed to steer participants to agree on a solution to a problem. But I’m a state’s rights person. It has never sit well with me that the federal government can come in and tell locals what they can and cannot do with, say, their education system or their police department. Certainly, local officials know far better what its citizens want and need than a group of bureaucrats from Washington, D.C..

But now it is time for local politicians to step up and earn that paycheck. No more hemming and hawing about reform. No more waiting for a crisis to develop and then throwing taxpayer money at it. Long gone are the days where assigning a task force to study something is all that gets done. The citizens who elected you want real leadership. They expect more, especially in the arena of public safety and the way the police force — that they pay for via their taxes – interacts with the public.

An analysis by the PBS program Frontline found that of the 68 DOJ investigations conducted over the last 20 years the number one complaint was that officers used excessive force against civilians. The second most often heard allegation had to do with racially motivated policing, that being when officers single out one group – usually blacks or Hispanics – for unfair stop and searches or false arrests.

These problems between police and civilians have existed for decades. When can we finally expect some solutions? There’s got to be a more efficient way to train front line officers so they understand that the vast majority of citizens are on their side, they want peace as much as the police do.  Indoctrinating new recruits and retraining veteran cops is a job best done close to home and not under the sickle of an authoritarian power from a faraway place.

Citizens worried about police shootings or officer misconduct need to get involved, to write letters to politicians and get to the next Town Hall meeting. The mayors who appoint the Chiefs of Police, the city councilors who hear citizen complaints, the state lawmakers who vote on training budgets need to be put on notice that the responsibility to improve the status quo rests with them.

Otherwise, you can bet the farm the feds will be back, forcing local politicians to do what they think is best.



  1. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Bill Plante writes:

    Even under Obamas doj oversite apd (Albuquerque Police Department) has dragged its heels to implement reforms and is even under investigation for doctoring lapel video. Now, rogue cops everywhere know they have a friend in the white house. Jeff sessions will not monitor local police depts. And the white house has replaced the civil rights link with a support the cops link. Its open season on minorities and anyone who opposes anything local law enforcement does. Even when cases involving police shootings or an officer blowing thru a redlight chasing a phantom drunk driver resulting in an innocent girls death, juries have shown blatant unwillingness to convict police. Local law enforcement agencies do not take citizen involvement seriously, to them it’s a necessary evil. Police know they’re untouchable and far too many of them take advantage of it and now they know the feds will not be watching. Keep calm and steer clear.
    David Plante

  2. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Noozhawk Reader AN50 writes:

    As bad as bad cops are, knee jerk reaction to isolated cases are far worse. The grievance movement thrives on it and drives it.

  3. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Noozhawk Reader Monterey Jack writes:

    Local political pressure is key, eh? But pitching a riot is more fun than civic involvement, even if it keeps bad community-police relations going badly.
    DD’s exhortation was wise and well intentioned, but inner-city communities listen to leaders who know that continuation of the problems keeps them in their position as leaders. Well, that’s my guess, based on observation of demagogue politics. Most inner city residents are not delinquents, and attempts at encouraging civic involvement should continue. But if they’re not already taking obvious measures, then there probably won’t be big returns on efforts to encourage them.

    Cop body cams won’t lose interest, though. “…after cameras were introduced in February 2012 [in Rialto, Calif.], public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months.
    Officers’ use of force fell by 60%.” – The Guardian (UK)

  4. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Reader Dan Klein writes:

    I totally agree with Diane Dimond but with one question. What happens when the citizens demand change and the politicians refuse to answer? Sometimes you can’t wait for the next election, that could be four years away. Albuquerque is a perfect example. Berry could have made changes and stopped the DOJ from coming to town, but he refused. He broke a campaign promise and kept the police chief who was a major part of the problem. I don’t believe the DOJ is the answer, but when the elected leaders decide not to listen and not to lead, what then?

    • Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      Dear Mr. Klein:

      Ummmm. Keep up the pressure? Organize petition drives and/or marches (i.e. The Million Women March sure got attention!) Better yet – run for political office yourself or encourage other likeminded people to run! There are things citizens can do. ~ DD

      • Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        Dan Klein · Washburn University replies:

        Diane Dimond You hit the nail on the head. The last mayoral election in Albuquerque had less than 20% of the registered voters show up. When the public isn’t engaged, their elected leaders won’t be either. Great column Ms Dimond!!!!!

  5. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Mc Garrett, Chattanooga, Tennessee writes:

    Oh, please get real. Albuquerque is a mess and you’re praising the million women march, who throw their trash into a can. How are going to make concerted effort to change your ridiculous laws. Have you read about your state law makers? Personally, as a woman, I think you are silly. Really, is that the best you’ve got, ummmm

    • Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Dear Mc Garrett:

      Yep. Civic involvement is the best I got, Mc Garrett. It has never been enough to simply sit around and complain. If citizens don’t get personally involved then those citizens are leaving it to the “mess” makers. ~ DD

  6. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:

    I think that having the citizens of the community turning to the local Government is a great idea, one that would actually work…

    • Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Facebook Friend Sandi Chaykin Teller writes:

      It will be interesting to see who in each of our states votes for Sessions

  7. Diane Dimond on January 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Facebook Friend Alan Fountain writes:

    Huge Huge Concern!! Great Question!!!!

  8. Diane Dimond on January 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Twitter Pal Bob Burtis@bob_burtis writes:

    @DiDimond Lets get back to where the cops are the good guys first. They cannot do their jobs./// Police have been hogtied for 8 years dealing with gangs, drugs and immigration. The pendulum has to swing back if you want to live safely.

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