In a red-meat speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police's annual conference in Chicago today, Donald Trump took credit for declining crime rates, called for the federal death penalty for convicted cop killers, and bragged about curtailing "meddlesome" federal oversight of police departments accused of violating civil rights.
Trump also lambasted Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Johnson had declined to attend the speech, citing "our city's core values along with my personal values."
"Eddie Johnson wants to talk about values," Trump said early in his hour-long speech. "People like Johnson put criminals and illegal aliens before the citizens of Chicago. Those are his values, and frankly his values are a disgrace. I will never put the needs of illegal criminals over the needs of law-abiding citizens. It's very simple to me."
Trump, whose visit was his first official trip to the city as president, attacked Chicago for being a sanctuary city and for its high number of shootings, saying local officials like Johnson weren't doing their jobs.
"All over the world they're talking about Chicago," Trump claimed. "Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison."
Trump also took credit for the recent dips in the national violent crime rate, which followed a two-year rise in violent crime. As I noted before, when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to take credit for a dip in crime rates, the Trump administration likes to argue that any rise in crime is a result of policies it opposes, while any downtick is proof that its policies are working, even when the numbers cut against their claims.
For example, shootings in Chicago, where Trump blames lax police brass and prosecutors for surging crime, have significantly declined since 2016. As of this past weekend, the Chicago Tribune reports,
The number of people shot has dramatically dropped—by 26.4%—since 2016.
During the past two years, the city has experienced double-digit declines in violent crime since 2016, when 760 people were killed and 4,300 others were wounded.
Trump also declared that his administration has "curtailed the harmful and intrusive use of federal consent decrees" to force reforms on police departments found to be violating civil rights. "No longer will federal bureaucrats micromanage your police departments," Trump said.
As one of his last acts in office before resigning last year, Sessions signed a memo placing new requirements on when the Justice Department can enter into a so-called consent decree—a settlement between the Justice Department and a local government or agency, monitored for compliance by a judge, that stipulates how it will correct civil rights violations or other issues.
Consent decrees were rarely used until the Obama administration, when the Justice Department launched a record 25 civil rights investigations into unconstitutional policing in such cities as Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson, Missouri.
In 2017, the Justice Department released a 164-page report—the result of an investigation launched in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald shooting—that found Chicago police routinely used poor tactics that resulted in unnecessary (and unconstitutional) lethal force. The report also found that the department's storied "code of silence" and poor internal protocols kept police misconduct from being properly investigated. In other cases, officers retaliated against witnesses to keep them from reporting misconduct.
Onstage at the police conference, Trump signed an executive order creating a Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to study some of the issues facing law enforcement, such as handling substance abuse, homelessness, and mental illness. In Portland, Oregon, for example, a media investigation found that half of all arrests by police were of homeless individuals.
The overall tone of Trump's speech was one of unmitigated praise for law enforcement. "When children hear the sirens of your patrol cars," Trump said, "they race to catch a glimpse, because they know that you are the heroes of their streets."