By Lynsey Downie | @lynzeyz
Trump’s department of justice (DOJ) are pursuing 60% less civil right cases than Obama’s and 50% less than George W. Bush’s administration. In an ironic juxtaposition staff cuts, poor morale and attrition have led to a lack of civil rights and drop-off of cases according to an analysis of DOJ data.
Civil rights cases cover areas such as hate crimes, police bias and disability rights. DOJ is a significant govern entity which has been involved with the movement of almost every significant rights reform in the US since its establishment.
However, Trump’s DOJ has shifted its focus to follow up of racial and ethnic cases primarily, neglecting police bias and disability rights, two areas where the division’s work has slowed to a near standstill.
Cases focused on by Trump’s administration tend to be high-profile, news-worthy cases whereas smaller cases are less likely to be picked up. Even hate crime complaints logged by the DOJ has fallen by 20% according to their October 2018 press release. Under Trump’s administration, the division has logged an average of 2.6 complaints per month down from the average of 5.9 months under Bush or Obama’s administration.
Budgeting documents show Trump’s administration has cut about 17% of civil rights staff positions. The 2019 budget request seeks a further 4.6% reduction in these positions. Currently, there are 593 staff and 369 attorneys in the division; in 2016, there were 714 staff and 383 attorneys.
Government surveys obtained by Reveal show morale has sufficiently fallen hitting their lowest point within the last eight years. Responses were collected on various topics from appraisals of leader integrity to the overall level of satisfaction.
The civil rights division has completely shifted its views on police department reports in the last two years, with Trump promising to protect police from protestors and looters. Casework in the Disability Rights section has fallen by almost 60% since Obama’s two terms.
Of the disability rights cases that have been filed, most have remedied violations in individual businesses or facilities not necessarily spurring widespread change. Across the division, most recent cases have ended in settlement agreements instead of consent decrees. This is significant because settlement agreements are less enforceable. Settlement agreements are only subject to contract law.
There could be severe consequences reports filed continue to decline such as lack of workers’ rights and increasing acceptance of unethical organisations. Experts believe that DOJ’s work discourages organizations from violating civil rights in the future for fear of being investigated. Catherine Lhamon, the chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights said to VICE News: ‘To see this Department of Justice failing in its obligations sends the unmistakable message to every American that civil rights are now optional.”
So, America over to you?