Published 7:51 PM EDT Oct 12, 2018
WASHINGTON-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions dispatched five additional federal prosecutors to Chicago Friday to assist in gun investigations, while serving notice that the Justice Department will oppose a pending agreement to overhaul local police department operations there.
Sessions said the new prosecution unit would work with state and local authorities to "help ensure that Chicago's most dangerous criminals are charged...disrupting the cycle of violence in the neighborhoods most in need."
At the same time, the attorney general followed through on a pledge to fight the pending police reform agreement in a court filing Friday, asserting that the pact served only to place "unjustified restrictions on police."
"Our goal should be to empower (the Chicago Police Department) to fulfill its duties, not to restrict its proper functioning or excessively demean the entire department for the errors of a few," Sessions said in a written statement.
The sweeping police reform plan, set in motion following the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, would in part require officers to document each time they draw their weapons. The provision has sparked opposition from the police officers union which contends that such a requirement could put officers at risk.
Justice took the action to meet a Friday deadline for written comment on the plan to be reviewed by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow. Public hearings on the policing proposal are scheduled later this month.
The developments come nearly a week after an Illinois jury convicted Officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each shot he fired at McDonald.
Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel scoffed at Sessions' opposition to the police agreement, asserting that the Trump administration was "out of step with the people of Chicago and out of touch with reality."
Emanuel said the city intended to move forward with the police proposal and other operational changes that he claimed have contributed to a 30 percent reduction in gun violence in the past two years.
The Trump administration, however, has repeatedly railed against the city's violent crime strategy.
Last year, the administration deployed an additional 20 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives to the city to fight gun violence.