On Feb. 9, during the swearing-in ceremony for new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump signed three executive orders concerning policing. The orders were said to be directed at public safety but in fact could have a devastating impact on Black and brown communities.
The first executive order directs federal law enforcement to step up efforts against drug cartels, with federal agencies sharing more intelligence. The second creates a national task force aimed at reducing violent crime, putting undocumented immigration on par with violent crime. The third executive order tasks Attorney General Sessions with creating legislation directed at stopping so-called violence against local police. All three orders should alarm the Black liberation movement and immigrant rights activists.
Trump used racist demagoguery and extensive law and order rhetoric to win him the presidency. In spite of the ‘war on police’ narrative that had been used throughout his campaign, violence against police has actually dropped the past few years. In total, only 63 police officers were killed in 2016, a number still below the ten-year average. However, in 2016, police killed 1092 people in the U.S.
Jeff Sessions comes into the office of attorney general despite protest and disdain from the people's movement. Sessions himself was once rejected from a federal judgeship over 31 years ago for his racist views. He once called civil rights organizations like the NAACP, “unamerican” as well as referred to a Black staff member as “boy” and called a white civil rights attorney a “disgrace to his race.” As the head of the Department of Justice, and the top law enforcement officer in the Trump administration, Sessions gives Trump exactly what he wants: a full-fledged racist who believes in assaulting immigrant communities and who would empower corrupt police to kill more innocent Black people with impunity. In addition, this will leave the Department of Justice investigations of corrupt police departments and cases of police terror like that of Alton Sterling in Louisiana in disarray.
These new executive orders show a move towards supplying local, state and federal police departments with much more resources and funding, along with a clear signal to step up criminalization and terror of Black and brown communities. The order explicitly makes Sessions create legislation around stopping so-called violence against police officers, a sign of potential federal ‘blue lives matter’ legislation. Such legislation has already been passed in Louisiana and signed into law by their Democratic Party governor. A police chief in Louisiana even made the comment earlier this year that “resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, [Louisiana] Governor Edwards, made it a hate crime now.” Such a move on the federal level could have devastating ramifications.
Increased federal penalties for incidents against police can only spell trouble for activists in the movement for Black lives who are fighting against police crimes. Charges such as ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘assaulting an officer,’ which are completely subject to the whims of the arresting police officer in the first place, could be stiffened. This means that the police can possibly further act without recourse, potentially planting hate charges on oppressed community members they wish to target.
All of these measures, created by Trump, with his supporters of the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions show a clear response from the police of defiance and direct confrontation towards the growing movement against police crimes. Instead of less funding for police departments and more money for Black community social programming and needs, Trump and Sessions are putting their bets on more criminalization and even stiffer sentencing laws for Federal crimes than ever before.
We must stay vigilant and continue building a people's movement to fight back against these attacks on the African Americans, Chicanos, Latinos and other oppressed nationality communities.