During a speech to the National Sheriffs Association in Washington on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to protect “the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”
“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions said. “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”
"The office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office" : Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking at the National Sheriff's Association winter conference in DC. @vicenews pic.twitter.com/gPS6AbkS30
— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) February 12, 2018
According to CNN, the term “Anglo-American” didn’t appear in Sessions’ prepared remarks, indicating that the remark was ad-libbed.
“A written version of the remarks says that Sessions was supposed to say: ‘The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage,'” CNN reports.
While “Anglo-American” is sometimes used as a substitute for “common law,” Sessions’ use of the term raised eyebrows given his history of racism, including his moves as attorney general to crack down on low-level drug offenders and re-implement mandatory-minimum sentencing. Both policies disproportionately target black communities.
They keep turning dogwhistles into stadium speakers
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) February 12, 2018
Sessions could have avoided a lot of trouble this morning by either:
— Saying “common law” instead of “Anglo-American”
— Not having a long record in public life as a racist
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 12, 2018
During a speech to African-American law enforcement officials last summer, Sessions rejected the idea of systemic racism.
“We all know the cases of the last several years where, in confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,” Sessions said. “Just as I am committed to defending law enforcement who use deadly force while lawfully engaged in their work, I will also hold any officer responsible breaking the law. You and I know that all it takes is one bad officer to destroy the reputations of so many who work day in and day out to build relationships in these communities and serve with honor and distinction.”
Sessions delivered that speech just days after Trump praised the sort of police violence that disproportionately victimizes black communities during a speech to police officers.