Justice Department cites Baltimore police reform 'concerns'

Posted April 21, 2017

On Friday, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar approved the consent decree between the city of Baltimore and the Department of Justice, which was drawn up in the final weeks of the Obama administration. The Trump administration had asked Bredar to delay signing the decree to give them more time to review the plan created to root out racist practices in Baltimore's police department.

He ordered a sweeping review of agreements with dozens of law enforcement agencies to determine whether they conflict with his crime-fighting agenda. The consent decrees were a legacy of the Obama administration, and came about as a response to high-profile fatal police-related shootings like that of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., and other locales where some police practices in regard to minorities have come under scrutiny.

Consent decrees, the AG warns, shouldn't ignore any of these issues by overstressing a single one of them. The constitutional and civil rights of those they are sworn to protect and serve?

With the new consent decree signed, the DOJ plans to introduce reforms to the police department including more training, new technology, and resources to develop community oversight.

That investigation was launched after the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was fatally injured while being transported in a police van in April 2015. Gray's death prompted protests and rioting throughout the city.

The motion had cited Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent directive to top deputies within the department to review a range of law enforcement efforts in the country _ including consent decrees _ to see whether they are in line with President Donald Trump's renewed focus on crime reduction.

That consent order brought improvement, reform and greater transparency to the State Police, before it was eventually dissolved in 2009.

Bredar wrote that he wouldn't grant the Justice Department more time to review the plan because the agency and city officials had already agreed on it.

Put simply, Sessions wants to take action to put an end to current and pending agreements between the Department of Justice and police departments regarding civil rights reform.

Regarding the Baltimore Consent Decree, numerous points of the decree agreement are mild at best. Numerous agreements and prohibitions are judgment calls where officials and judges usually agree with the officer.

The order comes at a critical time for several major cities, including Baltimore and Chicago, which revealed unconstitutional patterns of racial discrimination and excessive force in policing in length reports. "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", Smith was quoted as saying. At a press conference, mayor Catherine Pugh called the decision "a great victory for the citizens of Baltimore, as well as the Baltimore Police Department".

Sessions went on to criticize the decree, which has the support of Baltimore's political leadership.

He said that although the police department has made reforms of their own accord, including launching a body camera program and making changes to how prisoners are transported, the consent decree incorporates an independent monitor to oversee and help with reform implementation.