Judge rejects Justice Department request to delay Baltimore police hearing

Patrice Gainsbourg
Abril 19, 2017

Scores of Baltimore residents have taken their seats in a federal courtroom in Baltimore for the first public comment hearing on a proposed agreement to overhaul the city's police department.

It's not clear how the review will affect existing consent decrees.

Yesterday, City Paper spoke to Jill Carter, the Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Management, about the fate of Baltimore's consent decree after Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded, via signed statement, a 90-day pause to the decree on Monday. In February, Sessions said the federal government's role should be to "help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness", the New York Times reported.

The judge also heard from mothers whose sons were killed by police.

To create sustainable reform, the consent decree required the department to develop and implement: new use-of-force policies and protocols; create systems ensuring use-of-force incidents are documented and evaluated; create systems to track and investigate citizen complaints; and implement officer training on conducting effective and constitutional policing. He also directed the deputy attorney general and the associate attorney general to review "all department activities-including collaborative investigations and prosecutions" to ensure they follow his lead.

Sessions, an Alabama Republican who cultivated a tough-on-crime reputation during 20 years in the Senate, has repeatedly expressed concern that lengthy investigations of a police department can malign an entire agency.

City leaders, who have vowed to reform the Baltimore PD with or without a consent decree, praised the ruling.

FILE - In this June 23, 2016 file photo, members of the Baltimore Police Department patrol near the intersection of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, the site of unrest following Freddie Gray's funeral, in Baltimore. "They can provide important guidance when change has been hard to achieve in other ways", he said.

PUGH: Well, I think that - well, we don't see the consent decree as taking over the police department. "That doesn't bode well".

Justice officials on Monday asked to postpone an upcoming federal court hearing in that case amid Sessions' review. He says Ferguson has already made several reforms and says the city will not go back on those reforms. "We don't anticipate that there's going to be any major kind of change in what the city's doing and so we're going to keep working".

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The proposed consent decree in Baltimore comes after the Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns racial profiling and excessive force within the city's police force.

It will likely end hopes for a consent decree to bring federal oversight of the CPD.

Given that Trump thanked black people for not voting after his surprising Electoral College victory, I think Khalif is right.

The consent decree was reached after months of negotiations between Baltimore officials and Justice officials under the former Obama administration.

Sessions has always been a critic of the consent decree process, calling them "dangerous" in a 2008 report.

"The AG talks about local control, and wanting to defer to local control, you have to wonder why there wasn't an engagement with the commissioner in Baltimore", Gupta said. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he's charging forward with reform anyway.

"We can only speak for our intentions, we can't speak for the federal government's". "Reform is in our self-interest and that is why Chicago has been, is, and always will be committed to reform".

Any disruption of reform efforts in Chicago, Gupta added, would have "repercussions".

PUGH: Well, let me just say we're not trying to read anything into it.

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