One of the most welcome changes since the departure of the Trump administration has been the changeover at the Justice Department, where Attorney General Merrick Garland is working hard to restore the good name of the department and undo much of the damage left behind by his predecessors Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr. Already, the department is looking into suing the state of Georgia for its voter suppression tactics and looking into hate crime enforcement, while also getting to the bottom of the Capitol insurrection.
On Friday, however, Garland made clear again why Republicans were slow walking his nomination, as he helped make policing reform a bit easier by rescinding a Trump era memo that banned consent decrees. This means it will be easier moving forward for the department to take action against widespread police abuse at state and local levels. To give you an idea of how significant this change is, as minimal as it sounds, the Obama era DOJ launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Dept. shortly after Michael Brown’s death and found an array of unethical practices. Had the memo not been rescinded in 2018, we might not have seen the rash of police shootings that took place between 2020 and now.
There are of course many more steps to take before America’s problems with policing are fixed, but this is a critical first step – and the practices uncovered by Garland’s Justice Department in the coming weeks could further underscore the need for Democrats in Congress to pass the Justice in Policing Act.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making