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Vox Sentences: The Obama administration goes out with a bang on police oversight

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The last Obama-era investigation into police is a doozy; the little ethics office that could; winter has come for Europe's refugees.

Pattern and practice

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson Derek Henkle/AFP/Getty Images
  • The US Department of Justice released the results of its 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department Friday, concluding that the department regularly violated the civil rights of the city's black residents. [US Department of Justice]
  • The DOJ launched the investigation in late 2015 after police released the video of the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald — after officers attempted to lie about (and cover up evidence of) the circumstances of McDonald's death. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The report makes clear that Chicago police have a pattern of shooting first and asking questions (or, in some cases, lying) after. It details both shockingly racist attitudes among officers and department-wide failures of training and accountability. [Brad Heath via Twitter]
  • The Chicago report comes on the heels of the DOJ's announcement Thursday that it's made an agreement for federal oversight and reform with the Baltimore Police Department. [The Atlantic / David A. Graham]
  • The back-to-back announcements are probably the Obama administration's effort to clear up unfinished business. But Baltimore and Chicago are interesting for another reason: They've both become synecdoche for the rise in local violent crime that people like attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions are so concerned about — and that they blame on those, like the Obama DOJ, who criticize police. [DNAinfo / Tanveer Ali]
  • The problem with the Sessions theory is that Chicago and Baltimore are two cities where police have struggled to solve crimes since long before the DOJ got involved, precisely because their aggressive overpolicing makes it harder for them to do the policing that matters. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • The Obama DOJ's legacy on police reform isn't universally hailed. (After all, reports like the Chicago report don't automatically solve anything.) [Fault Lines / David Meyer Lindenberg]
  • But it will be succeeded by an attorney general who (if confirmed) does not believe there is such a thing as a "pattern and practice" of abuse in a police department. And it's really hard to maintain that belief after reading one of these reports. [Huffington Post / Ryan J. Reilly]

Jason Chaffetz is not down with OGE

Jason Chaffetz J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • In the past few weeks, you've probably heard about the Office of Government Ethics — a minor oversight office designed to help members of the executive branch stay on the right side of ethics laws during and after confirmation. [Quartz / Heather Timmons]
  • After Donald Trump was elected, the Office of Government Ethics, as part of its job, sent the transition team an ethics manual to help them along. The Trump team ignored it. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • They also ignored the office itself — despite several fruitless emails from the OGE voicing rising anxiety that the Trump team wouldn't be able to follow ethics guidelines if they didn't cooperate. [NBC News / Ari Melber]
  • So in recent weeks, the OGE has taken its protests to a medium the president-elect understands: Twitter. On Friday, it subtweeted the Trump about his apparent endorsement of a company (L.L. Bean, if you're wondering) in a Thursday tweet. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • In response, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, threatened to call the head of the OGE into a hearing for engaging in "PR" instead of doing his job. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • Chaffetz argues that the Trump transition team and its appointees haven't broken any laws, and it's inappropriate for the OGE to criticize them for doing things that aren't illegal. [Daily Beast / Matt Laslo]
  • But it's hard not to feel discomfited by the fact that the member of the House with the most power to investigate the Trump administration is, instead, vowing to go after the one government office that's voiced concerns about the president-elect's actions so far. [NYT]

Refugee winter

Softex refugee camp in Greece Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • The United Nations is extremely concerned about refugees and migrants living in temporary housing in Europe over the winter. At least five refugees have died of exposure since the beginning of the year (as temperatures in Greece have dipped to 7 degrees Fahrenheit). [The Guardian / Nadia Khomami]
  • Many refugees in Greece (as well as Serbia) are living in tents that aren't insulated against the cold. [Foreign Policy / Robbie Gramer]
  • This is partly the UN's fault — other aid groups pointed out in December that despite millions of euros in funding, the UNHCR (as well as the EU) had failed to properly "winterize" refugee camps. [The Guardian / Patrick Kingsley]
  • But European governments are adding to the crisis. The Serbian government, for example, decided to raid a refugee camp on its border with Hungary on Wednesday — stranding hundreds of migrants in the cold. [Al Jazeera / Lazara Marinkovic]
  • Migration to Europe is down substantially from last year, offering the possibility that the migration "crisis" is over as far as European governments are concerned. [Deutsche Welle]
  • But as far as those making the journey are concerned, it's worse. 2016 was the deadliest year in the Mediterranean. An average of 11 people were killed per day. [UNHCR]


  • In 1993, the Washington state legislature passed a bill not unlike the Affordable Care Act. Then Republicans swept into office and repealed its mandates, causing a death spiral and a total collapse of the reform. [Seattle Times / David Gutman]
  • You may not be interested in, but is interested in you. [Washington Post / Abby Ohlheiser]
  • The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017, which the House passed on Wednesday, would remove court deference to regulatory agency decisions. That sounds super boring. But it's really, really important. [TPM / John B. Judis]
  • Malls in America are dying, marking the end of a rare type of community that people of all backgrounds could share. [Washington Post / Yoo Jung Kim]
  • "Emo nostalgia" is now a thing, because you are old, and death approaches. [New Yorker / Jia Tolentino]


  • "Workers preparing for the inauguration Jan. 20 have taped over the name of the company — 'Don's Johns' — that has long supplied portable restrooms for major outdoor events." [AP / Matthew David]
  • "Voting for the fiscal year 2017 budget resolution gets this goat out of my house." [Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA)]
  • "A math question on a homework assignment given to students at Pennridge High School asks, 'Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s ___ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing.' After doing the math, the answers were boyfriend, brother or father." [CBS Philly]
  • "In such a world, it’s possible for an entire species to be ground into extinction by forces beyond its control and then, 40,000 years later, be dug up and made to endure an additional century and a half of bad luck and abuse." [NYT Mag / Jon Mooallem]
  • "Bernie [Madoff] really was a successful businessman with quite original insights into the market, and he’s continued applying his business instincts in prison. At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market. He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard." [Steve Fishman to MarketPlace / Ryan Vlastelica]

Watch this: How Vladimir Putin won Republicans’ approval

He's an authoritarian strongman, and he's never been more popular with GOP voters. [YouTube / Liz Scheltens, Gina Barton, and Nicholas Garbaty]

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