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Calling Jeff Sessions’ Bluff

LA tries to have it both ways as AG gets increasingly racist.

Oregon Department of TransportationSWAT team prepared Uploaded by Smallman12q (Creative Commons 2.0)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a racist Keebler elf, has taken a moment from his busy day-to-day of perjuring himself and stealing your shit to get back to his true passion: white nationalism. At his behest, the Justice Department has issued new rules targeting “sanctuary cities” that try to limit their cooperation with immigration officials.

In order to frighten municipal governments away from the slightest trace of self-defense or compassion, Jefferson Yes-His-Middle-Name-Is-Actually-Beauregard Sessions III has threatened to shut off the gravy train of grants that so many police departments have become accustomed to. Under the new rules, the Department will no longer award its much-desired Byrne grants to cities unless they share information with ICE and give them the run of the jails.

I’d usually object to this obvious bullying, these extortionate threats, the blatant disregard for any broader theory of public safety. Except… no more Byrne grants?

Please, Mr. Attorney General, don’t throw me in the briar patch.

What Sessions is threatening to withhold are the federal funds that built the catastrophic War On Drugs and militarized our local police. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assitance Grant program has its roots in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, designed to dump federal money into local agencies to recruit them for the US government’s drug war. The grants encouraged local police to form expensive narcotics task forces and heavily-armed SWAT units — invented in our fair city as “Special Weapons Attack Teams” — and showered cash on whatever police departments made more drug arrests, seized more property, and kicked down more doors.

The Byrne JAG program has been making it rain hundreds of millions of dollars every year — recently it’s been in the demure mid-300s, compared to over a billion per year in the ’90s — and gave police a clear incentive to chase minor arrests and conduct more violent raids to show off their new toys. This free-flowing federal money, and the insane drug war that drove it, helped turn our police departments into miniature armies. It pays for the surveillance drones, the sonic LRAD weapons that they deploy against protestors, the fake cell towers that capture your calls.

Here in Los Angeles our Milquetoast Mayor has sworn to fight to keep the grants — perhaps it’s easy to avoid declaring LA a sanctuary city when you claim to have no idea what one even is. Meanwhile, the consequences of militarization are clear: LAPD continues its streak as the deadliest police department in the nation, with the Sheriff’s Department pulling up close behind.

Sessions’ ultimatum might frighten Garcetti, desperate as he is to keep federal money for LAPD and — oh yes — for his empty, self-aggrandizing Olympics bid, but for the rest of us in this city the answer couldn’t be clearer: Call his bluff. Name us a Sanctuary and codify it into law. Let’s kick ICE out of LA… and let’s start reversing years of dangerous police militarization.

That sounds like a win-win to me.