Baltimore officials to judge: Don't delay police overhaul

Posted April 06, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled a major break from the Obama administration on Monday when he released a memo saying that the Department of Justice would review its agreements with troubled local police departments.

The Justice Department on Monday asked the judge overseeing the plan, called a consent decree, to postpone for 90 days a scheduled hearing Thursday.

More than a dozen cities, including Ferguson, have spent arduous months hammering out consent decrees with the U.S. Justice Department to institute much-needed police and judicial reforms aimed in large part at reducing enforcement disparities that unfairly target poor and minority communities.

Ferguson, Missouri, Mayor James Knowles III says officials in the city where 18-year-old Michael Brown died in a fatal police shooting in 2014 will continue to move ahead with reforms, regardless of any Justice Department review.

Pugh and other top Baltimore officials have pledged to move forward with reform the city's Police Department whether the Department of Justice pursues its pending consent decree with the city or not. Officials wrote that a postponement "would only serve to undermine, not build, public trust in the reform process". In fact, more often than not Obama was one who cheered on those engaged in protesting law enforcement, which typically blamed police for simply doing their job. That's a court-supervised plan to correct civil rights violations by Baltimore police. The first city to feel the impact of this policy change is Baltimore, which had been negotiating a so-called consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. In a city that became emblematic of police abuse, excessive force and callous treatment of young black men, Baltimore's mayor and commissioner say they are eager and ready to change not only the culture of law enforcement, but the practice. One resident, however, said he believed such a court-enforceable agreement "will hamper the police force".

"What they press and don't press will probably change", Jackson said of the Justice Department.

The review will target "collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation", the memo stated.

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"There were no backroom deals, no sleight of hand", Davis said. The Baltimore consent decree was reached after protests over the police killing of Freddie Gray revealed systemic racial profiling and other discriminatory tactics.

Davis spent 20 years with the Prince George's County Police Department, which signed on to a consent decree in 2004.

The court will only hear comments about whether the consent decree is "fair, adequate, and reasonable and is not illegal, the product of collusion, or against the public interest", the order says.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson likewise said they remain committed to reforms despite Sessions' order. Said Sessions: "Where you see the greatest increase in violence and murders in cities is [where] ... we undermine the respect for our police, and make ... their job more hard".

Stoughton points to examples like Ferguson, where the city was over-policing poor, minority communities and using fines for misdemeanors as a major revenue source, and NY, where the NYPD's stop and frisk policy was ultimately ruled unconstitutional because it unfairly targeted people of color.

Police reform advocates in Chicago, Baltimore and Cleveland are all anxious that the Trump administration will put an end to federal intervention in their cities.