With Jeff Sessions sworn in as Attorney General, the Trump administration signaled some of its priorities for a revamped Justice Department in a series of executive orders aimed at reducing crime and drug trafficking and protecting police officers. One order directs the Justice Department to define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing ones, to further protect local and federal officers from acts of violence, the Associated Press reports. Another order calls for the creation of a task force to reduce violent crime, and a third is aimed at dismantling international drug cartels.
Taken together, the directives, announced amid a national dialogue about racial bias in policing and appropriate police use of force, suggest that the White House wants to prioritize law and order and align itself closely with local law enforcement. “We must better protect those who protect us. Our men and women in blue need to know that we’re with them 100 percent as they patrol our streets. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. That was perhaps a reference to criticism directed at one of Sessions’ predecessors, former Attorney General Eric Holder. Yesterday, Holder posted on Twitter a 2011 DOJ press release announcing an initiative aimed at preventing police officer deaths. “It worked and continues to protect,” Holder wrote. Federal prosecutors already have the ability to pursue the death penalty in some cases involving the murders of law enforcement officers. And murder rates, despite an increase in some American cities, are well below where they were overall in the 1970s and 1980s. “President Trump intends to build task forces to investigate and stop national trends that don’t exist,” said Jeffrey Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union.