Justice Department cites Baltimore police reform 'concerns'

Posted April 21, 2017

The agreement is the culmination of an investigation into allegations of rampant abuses in the police department that include excessive force, unlawful stops and discriminatory practices. The Justice Department wants the judge to delay signing the agreement. Sessions is warning that the consent decree may "result in a less safe city".

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, appointed by President Donald Trump, again criticized the consent decree, saying that he has "grave concerns" about the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.

David Prater is a representative from Disability Rights Maryland.

It should not come as a surprise, though, that Sessions is woefully uninformed of the Department of Justice's objective - despite opposing police department reforms, the attorney general has openly admitted to not reading federal reports highlighting the need for law enforcement changes.

A USA judge on Friday approved an agreement to overhaul Baltimore's beleaguered police department, including changes in training and the use of force after officers were found to have routinely harassed minorities. "There are clear departures from many proven principles of good policing that we fear will result in more crime", he wrote.

Two mothers spoke of their sons being shot and killed by Baltimore police officers in past years.

Prudence Johnson urged the judge to sign the court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree.

"Please move forward on this".

Other community members told stories about how the police force inadequately handled rape cases or incidents involving mental illness.

Isaac Wilson, a black high school student, said he carries the burden of discrimination and the agreement is badly needed in the city. The letter promises NAACP opposition to any changes to the consent decrees that fail to satisfy governing legal standards.

"We are pleased to hear of Judge Bredar's decision to enter the negotiated consent decree". His new policy simply lists key issues that any decree involving cops should weigh: safety and protection of the public; officer safety and morale; protection and respect of civil rights; respect for local control; the use of timely, reliable crime statistics and orderly recruitment and training of officers. She feels a pause in the consent decree process "would be bad". Signing the agreement will send a strong message to the community that reforms are quickly happening. It matters not whether Mayor Pugh and Police Commissioner Davis desires not to delay the U.S. Justice Department's request.

DOJ attorney John Gore said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is anxious about "whether it will achieve the goals of public safety and law enforcement while at the same time protecting civil rights". Already infamous for its frightful rate of violent crime, the city will see that rate increase as the criminal element takes advantage of the void created with that implementation. He says those concerns "are not limited to Baltimore".

The hearing in question was, in many ways, a formality.

In a memo made public earlier this week, the Trump Justice Department signaled that it may retreat from the consent decrees that have been put in place in recent years in such cities as Cleveland; Ferguson, Missouri; Miami; and Newark, New Jersey. A court-appointed monitor will oversee changes in police training, tactics, operations, data tracking and other matters.

Thursday's hearing is expected to draw hundreds of people.

In January, after months of negotiation, DOJ and the City of Baltimore reached an agreement on a decree, pending approval by a judge.

The stand represents the start of what appears to be a retreat by President Donald Trump's administration from the federal consent decrees that have been put in place in several US cities in recent years to root out racism, excessive force and other abuses against minorities. The Justice Department has indicated that it intends to review all existing consent decrees to determine whether they will hinder efforts to fight violence crime.

After the hearing, the judge praised those who testified.