Tuesday, 27 June, 2017

Ferguson's federal consent decree among those AG Sessions wants to review

Local civil rights leaders plan to meet with Sessions 'No changes' to NOPD's consent decree after Jeff Sessions calls for 'review,' monitor says
Heather Davidson | 06 April, 2017, 02:57

The Trump administration's decision to review federal agreements with troubled police departments nationwide could imperil ongoing reform efforts, particularly in Baltimore and Chicago, civil rights advocates said on Tuesday, even as city officials vowed to continue pursuing improvements.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and his administration have said they remain committed to meeting the rigorous requirements of the consent decree that include instituting new use-of-force policies and improving relations between police and minority communities.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar wrote that the request filed on Monday came at the "eleventh hour" after significant resources and planning went into holding an unusual public hearing on the merits of the proposed agreement.

Over Obama's tenure, the Justice Department headed by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was especially critical in its evaluation of law enforcement, often blaming police departments for a "culture of racism".

The Baltimore Police Department is continuing to move forward with reforms related to the forthcoming consent decree for the overall progress of the city of Baltimore.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to revisit deals the Department of Justice has made with police departments accused of excessive force.

On Tuesday, city officials told the judge in a court filing that they oppose a 90-day extension to the hearing. Further delays only serve to erode the trust of the public in this process. The Donald Trump administration says this reversal is about public safety, but opponents counter that such announcements are more about appealing to the president's base. The reform agreements had been prompted by a series of high-profile police shootings of unarmed citizens and federal investigations that uncovered civil rights abuses, The Washington Post reports.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct in the Baltimore Police Department in 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in a police transport wagon, plunged the city into civil unrest.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is signaling that some major changes to the way police departments are investigated might be coming soon.

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The lawmakers said they want to work with the Justice Department "to rebuild public trust in the Baltimore Police Department through these much-needed and long-overdue reforms".

She added that she doesn't see the Justice Department's request for a postponement as any indication that it intends to back out of the agreement.

Sessions has directed the deputy attorney general and associate attorney general to review all Justice Department activities, including, "existing or contemplated consent decrees".

The consent decree agreement with the DOJ devotes an entire section to technology.

"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties", said NAACP President Cornell Brooks, according to the Associated Press.

Despite the Trump administration's belittling of the agreements, officials in both Baltimore and Chicago are eager to push ahead with police reforms, although the lack of a court approval very well might make it hard to receive the funding needed to carry out the plans.

Like in Baltimore, the DOJ has negotiated multiple formal reform agreements with cities called "consent decrees" which are overseen by a federal court. He says a consent decree makes sure change happens no matter who is running the city or department.

"And it is a clear sign that the Trump administration is seeking to undo, and walk away from, the consent decree that is a critical part of reforming Baltimore's police department", Rocah said.

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