Md. lawmakers don't want to delay police reformsBy Darlene Powers Apr 13, 2017
U.S. District Judge James Bredar said the Justice Department, which cited a recent memo by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in seeking the delay, didn't show it would be harmed should the hearing take place as planned.
The DOJ's request for a continuance came just two hours after Sessions issued a two-page memo, in which he directed his staff to review all the investigations, prosecutions, training and existing compliance reviews between the department and local law enforcement agencies.
Civil rights attorney Mary Howell said the court-mandated reforms have had an "enormous impact" on a police department plagued by decades of corruption and abuses. Those negotiations followed a sweeping investigation by the Justice Department into the Baltimore Police Department and a report last summer that determined city police routinely violated local residents' constitutional rights. "The court will continue to monitor the implementation of the decree that benefits the citizens of New Orleans and is supported by the city and the police department", said Jonathan Aronie, the lead monitor for the New Orleans Police Department's consent decree. But politically, liberal mayors with significant black voting bases had every reason to side with the federal government against their own police departments. Signed by the attorney general and directed to the department heads at Justice and to US attorneys across the country, it directs the deputy attorney general and the associate attorney general to review all collaborative arrangements between Justice and local police departments, including consent decrees "existing or contemplated".
A large police group, however, welcomed the review on the Obama DOJ consent decrees. In what seemed like a reference to Sessions' skepticism of consent decrees, a lawyer representing Baltimore said on Thursday that he wasn't sure people were actually looking at the text of the consent decree, which include provisions for amendments. "Providing policing services in many parts of Baltimore is particularly challenging, where officers regularly confront complex social problems rooted in poverty, racial segregation and deficient educational, employment and housing opportunities".
The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision.
That process is not hindered by the public hearing, Bredar observed.
The Justice Department had requested a 90-day delay in today's hearing.
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MARTIN: What does the police union in Baltimore have to say about this change in policy? Under former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department used consent decrees as a means to force troubled police departments to reform their practices and community relationships.
The consent decree - which the territory agreed to carry out - is aimed at correcting that situation.
"We all agree here, that there needs to be systemic changes and we're going to make those changes", he said. "It's important people begin to trust the police".
MARTIN: So the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, says that it's not the federal government's responsibility to manage local police forces, that local authorities should take back control of that.
A favorite talking point of the mayor's is that more effective police work and more professional police work are "heads and tails of the same coin".
Lightfoot also was critical of the idea that police reform somehow inhibits the fight against crime, noting that community trust is essential to solving crimes and the majority of good officers don't want to be tarnished by a few bad actors. They both vowed that they will press on with police reform regardless of what happens with the consent decree. We fully embrace - and we believe most Chicagoans fully embrace - the view that a Chicago Police Department held to the highest standards of professionalism and accountability also will be a more powerful crime-fighting machine. And now it's no consent decree, so I think it would be wise for the mayor to keep with that commitment and go forward.
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