Politics & Policy

Baltimore Is Just the Latest Target in Obama’s Civil-Rights Crusade against Police Departments

(Mark Wilson/Getty)

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

When Republican leaders rationalized confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general — notwithstanding her stated commitment to facilitating President Obama’s lawlessness – they mumbled about how the country needed to end the tenure of Eric Holder. You may remember him as the original Obama attorney general whose confirmation Republicans strongly supported despite extensive evidence of his unfitness.

As a number of us countered, and as anyone with a shred of common sense knows, major Justice Department policy is and has always been set by President Obama. While Ms. Lynch is temperamentally different from Mr. Holder, her confirmation portended no change of direction.

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And so . . . no sooner has Attorney General Lynch been sworn in than she has continued Mr. Holder’s crusade against state and local police departments. She announced on Friday that the Justice Department has opened a “pattern or practice” investigation of the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether — actually, to pave the way for the preordained conclusion that — the BPD systematically violates civil rights. The pretext for the investigation is the death of Freddie Gray in police custody on April 12.

It is important to understand that Holder’s crusade was never Holder’s alone. To repeat, Obama dictates Justice Department policy.

Back in 2008, Republican strategists were scared to death to be seen as inquiring into, much less attacking, Barack Obama’s radical background. No need to dwell on his ties to former terrorist Bill Ayers, we were told. As I (among others) protested at the time, while Ayers’s terrorist past was alarming, it was not the most troubling aspect of Obama’s association with him.

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Ayers had remained a proud anti-American radical who openly argued that our country was incorrigibly racist and corrupt. Yet Obama had colluded with him on their joint left-wing passion: criminal-justice “reform.” They appeared on a panel together to argue for keeping even violent juvenile offenders out of the adult justice system. They worked together on boards of left-wing charities to direct funding to like-minded radicals. In 1997, Ayers wrote a book, A Kind and Just Parent: Children of the Juvenile Court, which (as Stanley Kurtz has observed) compares America’s juvenile-justice system to the mass detention of young blacks under South African apartheid. Obama, then a state lawmaker in Illinois, lavishly praised the book as a “searing and timely account.”

A key, if little noticed, part of Obama’s domestic agenda from the start has been to roll back lawful police methods that dramatically reduce crime.

Understand then: For upwards of a quarter-century, we’ve enjoyed a staggering decrease in crime rates nationally, particularly in urban areas, because of engaged, intelligence-driven policing methods. During that time, Obama has been playing for the other team: academic and activist detractors who point to the overrepresentation of blacks in the offender population in a racially charged attack on policing — rather than emphasizing that the overrepresentation of blacks as crime victims is ameliorated by modern policing.

A key, if little noticed, part of Obama’s domestic agenda from the start has been to roll back lawful police methods that dramatically reduce crime. As I’ve previously explained, the Democrat-controlled Congress in the first years of the Clinton presidency gave him the tool he needed: the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It enables the attorney general to file lawsuits against cities and towns that, it contends, engage “in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of [federal] rights.”

The Obama administration has used this heavy-handed provision as a sledgehammer to put numerous state and local police departments under federal supervision. The suits accuse cops of “excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests,” as the Justice Department puts it in a brochure. The DOJ then bludgeons the targeted municipalities into agreements — “consent decrees” — that impose Obama-approved policing methods.

Locales under the control of progressive Democrats tend to invite the administration to come “fix” their police. Other cities and towns would like to fight but they cannot compete with the Justice Department’s $28 billion budget; agreeing to comply is their only realistic option.

Holder lustily carried out the mission, but it is Obama’s policy. Not only has the new attorney general promptly sustained it; she has adopted what we might call her predecessor’s “pattern and practice” of imposing it: the exploitation of controversial interactions between police and black men. I’ve previously recounted this modus operandi:

Holder streams in behind a tragedy that [Al] Sharpton and Obama have demagogued. He announces a civil-rights investigation. Eventually, he backs down from the threat of an indictment in the individual case, never conceding that the supporting evidence was not there. . . . But, the attorney general is pleased to add, the original civil-rights probe of the non-crime has metastasized into a thoroughgoing civil-rights probe of the state or local police department’s training, practices, and . . . drumroll . . . institutional racism.

Under our new attorney general, the old story is replaying in Baltimore. Even as the Maryland state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby rashly announced last week that the agitators’ cries of “no justice, no peace” after Mr. Gray’s death had induced her to file murder and other homicide charges against the police, Ms. Lynch made it known that the Justice Department was considering a civil-rights case. Soon, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the close Obama political ally who directed police to stand down while rioters torched and looted, publicly called on the Justice Department to investigate the BPD’s “pattern and practices” — which one might have thought was the mayor’s job. On cue, Ms. Lynch has now announced her probe.

RELATED: Eric Holder Dubbed ‘the People’s Lawyer’ in Taxpayer-Funded Documentary

#related#It is an utterly predictable development but an amazing one nonetheless. As Investors Business Daily points out, “just two months ago, President Obama held up the Baltimore police force as a model of unbiased community policing.” A report from the president’s “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” gushed that Baltimore — with a police department now almost 50 percent black and led by a black commissioner — had already implemented “national best practices for policies and training.” The city, the White House said, had modified those “outdated procedures” that “put officers at odds with the community.”

Alas, it appears that Baltimore is a policing success just like Yemen is a counterterrorism success. But not to worry: With Mayor Rawlings-Blake ready to sign on the dotted line, and state’s attorney Mosby making it known that cops risk being prosecuted when they make good-faith arrests, Baltimore will soon have its Obama-compliant consent decree.

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