The U.S. Department of Justice issued a notice on Sept. 21, identifying the cities of New York, Seattle, and Portland as jurisdictions in which violence and property destruction are permitted. 

The notice is in response to the Sept. 2 memorandum in which President Trump reviewed the events that occurred in some cities after the protests that began with the death of George Floyd in late May of this year and highlighted some of these places that have refused to restore law and order.

Trump said in his memo that he “will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones” and asked the Justice Department to identify which areas based on a certain criteria.

The criteria set forth in the notice include:

  • Jurisdictions where local authorities cut the police budget amid a substantial increase in crime, such as New York City which took away $1 billion from the police budget and consequently eliminated an entire section of plainclothes officers who were responsible for getting weapons off the streets and the police department had to stop hiring new recruits. New York City now has 177% more shootings than last year.
  • Police reforms introduced by the authorities that make the work of officers much more difficult, such as the prohibition of certain techniques to restrain a suspect.
  • Jurisdictions where authorities removed the police and left the area in the hands of protesters, such as the case of Seattle where the mayor allowed the creation of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), a 6-block radius that included the police precinct. The autonomous zone was in place for a month, by order of Mayor Durkan the police were not allowed to enter, and two teenagers were killed in the zone.
  • Jurisdictions that do not accept help from federal forces to counteract the disturbances.

While it is unclear the legal scope of this action since local authorities could appeal if Justice were to take away federal funds and the final decision would fall to a judge, it is a step by the Trump administration to show its commitment to law and order.

Attorney General William Barr was optimistic about the measures and said in the notification, “It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”