Berkeley Law student questions Attorney General Jeff Sessions about police brutality

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Last week, a video surfaced of UC Berkeley School of Law student and U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, intern Sean Litteral asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions about how to address police brutality around the country.

The event Litteral attended was part of a series of lectures held for DOJ interns throughout the summer, one of which featured Sessions. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, ABC acquired the video of this lecture that occurred in June, and the video includes a particular exchange between Litteral and Sessions:

“I grew up in the projects to a single mother, and the people who we are afraid of are not necessarily our neighbors but the police,” Litteral said during the event.

“That may be the view in Berkeley but it’s not the view in most places in the country,” Sessions said in response.

Litteral specifically asked Sessions about “consent decrees” as a way to hold police departments accountable in cases of excessive force. Litteral is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science and plans return to Berkeley Law in fall 2018.

According to Litteral, consent decrees are the “most effective way” for the DOJ to hold police departments accountable. A consent decree is an agreement between the DOJ and a police department that outlines specific rules that the department must follow.

“When will [consent decrees] become an available option again, and when can we get back to work for the communities that we care about?” Litteral asked Sessions during the event.

In response, Sessions did not offer an answer regarding consent decrees; rather, he directed his response toward public safety in neighborhoods.

“We care about all communities, we care about public safety, and we care about having neighborhoods — every neighborhood —  where children can walk safely in their communities,” Sessions said in his response.

Litteral described the negative, fearful perceptions of the police in Columbus, Ohio, the community from which he hails.

“A police car drives through the community and people run,” Litteral said. “Not because they’ve done something wrong, but because when the police come, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Growing up on the west side of Columbus, Litteral said he remembers being afraid of the police as a 16-year-old, including one time when several police officers allegedly pointed guns to his back “without cause.” Litteral said police violence is tied to poverty and race, and fear of the police is deeply rooted.

“These kind of things lead to scars,” Litteral said. “If the only time the government is coming around is to police us, (that’s) an issue. The government should uplift rather than police.”

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.