In an example of how U.S. Justice Department priorities are changing, new U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman in Cleveland has dismantled the office’s civil rights unit and has established a new division that will focus on prosecuting violent crime, reports Cleveland.com. The civil rights unit served as the crown jewel of the office under former top prosecutors Steve Dettelbach and Carole Rendon and handled high-profile criminal prosecutions. Herdman said such cases will still be prosecuted, though by different units in the office. His violent crime unit will use the power of the federal government to build bigger conspiracy cases and target gangs.
The realignment appears to track what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions set in motion as his priorities. Herdman said his restructuring was mostly shaped by his assessment of the office and feedback from local law enforcement. “We have a demonstrable violent crime issue in our largest cities,” said Herdman, a Republican who previously worked at the office and at the Jones Day law firm. “It aligned with what the national priorities of the DOJ are stated to be.” The civil rights unit consisted of three assistant U.S. attorneys and a supervisor. Two of the attorneys in the unit handled civil cases, which included the investigation into and eventual settlement with the city of Cleveland to reform the police department.