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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Donald Trump signed executive orders giving police more power at the swearing in of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the White House in Washington, DC, February 9, 2017
[Saul Loeb / AFP]

Danger sign: The President and the Attorney General of the United States are attempting to justify further expanding police power by falsely claiming that crime is at an all-time high.

At the Thursday ceremony to swear in Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Donald Trump signed three executive orders dealing with “public safety,” including giving more authority to the police, creating new federal crimes, and increasing penalties for existing crimes.

Trump insisted that the U.S. faces the “threat of rising crime” and that “things will get better very soon,” despite a 30-year trend of falling crime rates, reports Rachael Revesz at The Independent.

“These dangerous times require a determined attorney general,” Trump said at the Oval Office ceremony for Sessions, reports Reuters.

“I’m signing three executive actions today designed to restore safety in America,” Trump said. “Very important,” he claimed. “All very important.” The White House didn’t provide copies of the executive orders, reports RT.com, nor was any explanation given regarding exactly what they would do.

Of the first executive order, Trump said,  “I’m directing Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and many other people,” reports CBS News.

The Executive Order offers little of substance, beyond organizing “task forces” to make recommendations on reducing the supply of drugs to the U.S., according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). On Wednesday, at a speech before law enforcement, Trump vowed to be “ruthless” against drug trafficking, and at the swearing-in ceremony for Attorney General Sessions, Trump commented that drug cartels are “destroying the blood of our youth.”

Also this week, Trump sat down with county sheriffs to discuss law enforcement strategies, and asset forfeiture was a topic widely discussed. It was clear Trump did not know anything about asset forfeiture prior to the meeting, according to the DPA. After he got a one-sided lesson from the law enforcement community, he gave it a big thumbs-up. He also threatened to destroy the career of the Texas State Senator who offered a bill seeking to reform the system.

bill piper drug policy alliance dpa
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Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance:
“We have had a war on drugs. It has failed. Tough talk may look good before the cameras but history has taught us that cracking down on drugs and building walls does not stop the supply or use of drugs.”
[Dean Becker / YouTube]

“This rhetoric is dangerous, disturbing, and dishonest,” said Bill Piper, senior director for the DPA’s Office of National Affairs. “We have had a war on drugs. It has failed.

“Tough talk may look good before the cameras, but history has taught us that cracking down on drugs and building walls will not stop the supply or use of drugs,” Piper pointed out. “It mostly causes the death and destruction of innocent lives.

“Trump must tone down his outrageous rhetoric and threats, and instead reach out to leadership from both parties to enact a humane and sensible health-based approach to drug policies that both reduce overdose and our country’s mass incarceration crisis,” Piper said.

The second order directs the Justice Department “to form a task force on reducing violent crime in America.”

And the third executive order, Trump said, would have the Justice Department “implement a plan to stop crime and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers.”

Wow, odd that nobody thought of that before. (They have, of course, and I am being sarcastic about the Big Orange Leader’s ham-handed grasp of simple-minded solutions.) Are three executive orders really needed to tell Sessions to do his job?

While 135 police officers were killed in the U.S. in 2016, including 64 fatally shot while on the job, that number also includes traffic accidents, heart attacks while working, and job-related health issues.

“It’s a shame what is happening to our truly great officers,” Trump said, reports Casey Quinlan at ThinkProgress. “That’s going to stop as of today.”

Oddly, Trump didn’t mention the hundreds of Americans who die at the hands of law enforcement every year. There were at least 968 killings by cops of citizens last year, according to The Washington Post, and already more than 130 in 2017, according to a database called killedbypolice.net.

The executive orders come from the same administration that continues to “accidentally” fabricate terrorist attacks (the “Bowling Green Massacre“; the “Atlanta Attack“) to justify the curtailment of civil liberties, and the expansion of governmental discrimination against Muslims and other minorities. The orders are not, of course, about safety; they are about control and intimidation.

The executive orders seek to further concentrate power in the hands of the authorities. The aim is to have “law and order” that only works in one direction. It is about finding ways to strip citizens of their tools and ability to participate in the American tradition of dissent.

Trump’s executive orders come just a month after the previous administration’s Department of Justice concluded that Chicago residents have suffered a “pattern of excessive force” by police, especially within communities of color. A few weeks ago, Trump threatened to “send in the Feds” if the Chicago murder rate (about which Trump has also lied, and been debunked) doesn’t fall.

The orders were signed during Black History Month.

 

The DOJ, under Sessions, is unlikely to continue investigating citizen deaths, or to do much of anything on police reforms, according to civil rights campaigners.

The rate of police officers being indicted or convicted is already extremely low, and, according to experts, is likely to fall even farther under the new administration.

“Your day is over,” Trump grandly announced to his imagined “criminals,” to whom he said his orders were a “clear sign.” “A new era of justice begins and it begins right now,” he said.

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Donald Trump:
“Your day is over. A new era of justice begins and it begins right now”
[Quartz]

“We have a crime problem. I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or blip,” Sessions claimed at the swearing in, ignoring the overall decline of crime for three decades. “My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that puts the health and safety of Americans at risk.”

Kind of like the “health and safety” of those 968 folks who were killed by cops last year, presumably.

Trump’s and Sessions’s claims of rising crime have already been thoroughly debunked, reports The Independent. Despite a slight uptick over the past two years, crime has gone down significantly for several decades, is is now much lower than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

The FBI’s national crime statistics show a decades-long, downward crime trend, with an overall decline of violent crime.

 

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