Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were unambiguous throughout their presidential campaign: they believe that racism pervades policing and all other aspects of the criminal-justice system. Just a day before the networks declared Biden the president-elect, he claimed a “mandate” to eliminate “systemic racism.” During the campaign, Biden routinely announced that black parents were right to worry that their children would be shot by the police, an assertion formalized in his campaign plan for “strengthening . . . justice.”
Biden’s plan for “strengthening America’s commitment to justice” reads like a Black Lives Matter wish list; there is no reason to think that a Biden–Harris Justice Department will not implement it. Among its most consequential proposals, it calls for a return to the practice of imposing weakly-justified consent decrees on police departments.
President Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reformed that practice, requiring that a high-level DOJ official approve each consent decree, that those decrees have a sunset date—usually no longer than three years—and that they specify what a department must do to terminate the decree.
This sensible set of guidelines will now be torn up, if Biden’s narrow victory holds. Biden’s criminal-justice plan promises to “reverse” the Trump “limitations” and to “prioritize” the use of consent decrees. Police departments are now on notice: they may expect a knock on the door at any time from a Washington attorney, demanding truckloads of documents as the prelude to years of federal interference and budget-busting compliance rules and fees. Strikingly, the justice blueprint goes further than even Obama-era policy by calling for pattern-or-practice investigations of prosecutors’ offices, on the ground that they, too, engage in “systemic misconduct.”
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