WASHINGTON (AP) â When Attorney General Jeff Sessions told local police departments they could once again have access to free grenade launchers and large-caliber weapons cast off from the U.S. military, law enforcement groups checked another item off their wish lists.
Seven months into President Donald Trump’s administration, police groups are reveling in what they see as newfound support from the federal government. The administration, which touts a “law and order” agenda, has revived a controversial program that lets local police seize cash and property with federal help and pulled back on federal scrutiny of local law enforcement.
Sessions, who has overseen most of the administration’s law enforcement initiatives, views federal support of local police as key to driving down recent spikes in violence in some cities, a top priority of the Justice Department. But critics say Trump’s recent moves â including his pardoning of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of contempt of court for disobeying a federal order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants â display a troubling lack of skepticism about police power.
And civil rights advocates, who found a rare ally in the Obama Justice Department, say they are left wondering how the administration will side if another racially charged confrontation becomes a flashpoint in the debate over police treatment of minorities.
“When the AG’s office sends messages the way this AG has, it condones the actions of law enforcement,” interim NAACP President Derrick Johnson said. “We see no evidence of his interest in holding police officers accountable.”
Some in law enforcement grew frustrated with what they saw a lack of support for local police from the Obama administration. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, though embraced by…