Justice Department Scuttles COPS Scrutiny of Local Police

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The U.S. Justice Department said Friday it would roll back Obama-era efforts to investigate local police departments and issue public reports about their failings — another way in which the Trump administration is trying to adopt a tough pro-police stance, reports the Washington Post. The changes were announced by the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, which is halting a years-long effort to investigate and publicize the shortcomings of police departments. Within the Justice Department, the civil rights division has for decades conducted “pattern or practice’’ probes of troubled police departments to determine whether there are systemic problems that require a court-appointed monitor to correct. In recent years, however, the COPS office had gradually expanded to do something similar, issuing public reports about problems it found in individual departments.

On Friday, the Justice Department signaled that it will leave such work to the civil rights division and that the COPS office would return to its roots — advising police departments on best practices, offering training and becoming more collaborative. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the move “a course correction to ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support.” Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division who now works as president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the decision is “another indication of the full retreat from police reform by Jeff Sessions.’’ Kanya Bennett, The ACLU’s legislative counsel, called the move “truly appalling.”

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