The Obama administration’s the investigation and forced reform of local police departments could be halted by President-elect Donald Trump, reports the Marshall Project. The Department of Justice has had the power to launch civil-rights probes of police departments since the 1990s. Under a new attorney general, such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, priorities could shift practically overnight. New investigations could grind to a halt, and court-ordered consent decrees could stall.
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is a possible Trump appointee to run the Department of Homeland Security, has been particularly hostile towards any federal oversight of police departments. “What officers fear is…this ongoing witch hunt by the Civil Rights Division, taking over law enforcement agencies all across the nation,” Clarke told Fox News in May. Under Obama, the DOJ began investigations into 23 law enforcement agencies and entered 11 consent decrees, compared with 20 investigations and three decrees under former President George W. Bush. Jonathan Smith, a former chief of the Special Litigation Section in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division under Obama, sees a potential return to those days. “I am terrified that Donald Trump has wrapped himself in the mythology of the War on Police,” he says. “I’m worried that not only will the investigations cease or become less effective, but also the current consent decrees will not be enforced.”