Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the head of Chicago’s police department on Thursday, but reportedly made no specific promises for federal financial aid, despite the city’s ongoing gun violence crisis.
Sessions told police superintendent Eddie Johnson that his budget for the next fiscal year had been cut and didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep, attendee J. Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, told the Chicago Tribune.
Johnson was among several police chiefs to meet with Sessions on Thursday, largely discussing how the federal government could assist departments in dealing with gun violence and repeat offenders, Manger said.
The White House released its 2018 budget blueprint on Thursday, which detailed cuts to the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department’s grant program to police departments, which some city officials have already begun expressing concerns about.
New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill tweeted Thursday that President Donald Trump’s homeland security budget cuts would eliminate “virtually all” federal funding to the NYPD and leave its counterterrorism efforts “hobbled.”
Chicago’s police department had planned to ask Sessions for more federal prosecutors, and more agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; and FBI, to help crack down on gang violence and gun crimes, Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told media before the meeting.
Trump has repeatedly held up Chicago as an example of what he describes as inner cities overrun with violence. He even tweeted in January that he would “send in the Feds” to fix Chicago’s gun violence crisis, to which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel replied “just send them.”
Overall, Sessions’ meeting with police chiefs was “productive,”Johnson told media afterward.
“We talked about things specifically related to Chicago, and I think that we both want to be flexible … We need to reform, and we agreed to work collaboratively to reform CPD,” Johnson said.
Sessions also indicated he supported the DOJ’s civil rights division and the department’s responsibility to “hold police accountable,” Manger told the Tribune.
Advocates of police reform have been fearful of the impact Sessions could have on federal efforts to address civil rights abuses by police. Sweeping investigations and “consent decrees” aimed at overhauling local policing practices were hallmarks of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, but Sessions has vowed to “pull back” on such efforts.
The DOJ had released a damning report detailing “systemic deficiencies” and constitutional violations within Chicago’s police department — but Sessions dismissed much of the 161-page report as “anecdotal” rather than “scientifically based.”