Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Local civil rights leaders plan to meet with Sessions

In a memo made public this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all Justice Department "consent decrees" that force police departments to overhaul their practices, saying, "It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies".

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile] issued a memorandum [text, PDF] on Monday, ordering the Department of Justice [DOJ, official website] to undertake a comprehensive review of all police reform activities issued during the Obama administration.

Some saw his announcement as a potential threat to court-approved reforms spawned by Justice Department civil rights investigations of police agencies; Sessions has denounced such "consent decrees" before. That request came just days before a hearing, scheduled for Thursday in the United States District Court in Baltimore, to solicit public comment on the agreement, which was reached in principle by the city and the Justice Department in the waning days of the Obama administration.

On Mar. 28, nine FOP officials gathered in the nation's capitol to meet with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss law enforcement issues such as violence directed at police officers, opioid addiction and urban crime.

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.

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Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis arrives at a news conference at the department's headquarters in Baltimore, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, to respond to the Department of Justice's request for a 90-day delay o.

But the head of the Baltimore police union, Lieutenant Gene Ryan, said the union should have more of a voice in the process.

The federal government alone can not successfully address rising crimes rates, secure public safety, protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public, or implement best practices in policing. But the scaling back of Obama-era police investigations probably won't affect Seattle Police Department's consent decree, which grew out of a 2011 federal investigation that raised concerns about excessive use-of-force and bias policing among city officers.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) implored Sessions in a House floor speech to keep the Department of Justice agreements as a response to racially charged police shootings of young black men.

That said, Pruitt still believes the decree is solid.

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Outside city government, reaction to the Justice Department motion was less measured. "These latest developments are particularly ironic given that in the same memo outlining a review of these vital consent decrees, Attorney General Sessions also noted that 'local law enforcement must protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public'".

"Criminal justice reform is something we must do in our city", the mayor said. Actively participating in a consent decree, he said, will help bolster faith in that process.

"Through these ongoing reforms we will ensure our officers have the training and support they need to do a tough job well, we will strengthen the relationship with our residents, and we will make our city a stronger, safer place", it said.

The Justice Department filed a request to postpone a hearing on the proposed consent decree implementing sweeping reforms to Baltimore's troubled police department.

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

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"I'm asking the citizens of Baltimore to have faith that we will continue this work, because we do think it's important and we do want to transform the police department and we do want to make sure we're operating at the highest level", she said.

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