Sessions questions Justice Department reports on Ferguson and Chicago policing

PHOTO: Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington,D.C., Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. PlayAlex Brandon/AP Photo
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Newly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioned reports published by his agency about policing in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, describing "some of it" as "pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based."

While admitting that he had not read the reports, but instead viewed summaries, Sessions questioned the department's findings using the "anecdotal" critique and cautioned that there will always be some mistakes.

"You have 800,000 police in America, imagine a city of 800,000 people," said Sessions. "There's going to be some crime in it, some people are going to make errors."

The Chicago investigation, released in January, found "systemic deficiencies" in the city's police department including violations of the U.S. Constitution.

The 161-page report, capping a year-long investigation, identified the use of deadly force by officers, "racially discriminatory conduct," a lack of investigation into cases, unfair advancement policies and poor support for officer welfare as areas warranting reform.

"In the course of its pattern or practice investigation, the department interviewed and met with city leaders, current and former police officials, and numerous officers throughout all ranks of CPD," the DOJ said in a release at the time.

"The department also accompanied line officers on over 60 ride-alongs in every police district; heard from over 1,000 community members and more than 90 community organizations; reviewed thousands of pages of police documents, including all relevant policies, procedures, training and materials; and analyzed a randomized, representative sample of force reports and the investigative files for incidents that occurred between January 2011 and April 2016, including over 170 officer-involved shooting investigations and documents related to over 400 additional force incidents."

In Ferguson, the site of the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in 2014, the Justice Department found extreme instances of racial bias, use of excessive force and a focus on generating revenue through policing.

The report found that African-Americans were targeted in 85 percent of vehicle stops, received 90 percent of the city's citations and made up 93 percent of arrests, while only comprising 67 percent of the population.

Sessions said Monday that he "really worr[ies] about Chicago," citing an uptick in murders and a reduction in stops and arrests there. He also said he believes that prosecution of gun-related crimes would reduce crime and that police are no longer as engaged in policing, contributing to increased violence.

Upon the release of January's report, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that "one of [her] highest priorities" was to "ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, responsive and transparent."

“Sadly, our thorough investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that far too many residents of this proud city have not received that kind of policing,” said Lynch.

As a result of the investigation, the Justice Department and the city signed an agreement to cooperate on a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies. Sessions did not offer comment on that agreement Monday.