Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late yesterday that his Justice Department plans to review consent decrees between police departments and the feds, imperiling law enforcement reform in major cities where high-profile police shootings have led to massive protests.

Sessions has suggested the current decrees around the country amount to unnecessary federal meddling in local police departments.

The Trump administration has "grave concerns" about an agreement the Obama administration reached with the city of Baltimore to overhaul its police department, an attorney told a federal judge Thursday.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is putting police reform agreements in cities nationwide under a microscope, in what could be the beginning of a reversal of the Obama era efforts, drawing mixed reactions from community leaders and police.

The Justice Department's request for a 90-day pause to review the Baltimore consent decree case ahead of Thursday's public hearing has been denied by a federal judge, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"The request for a delay is alarming and signals a retreat from the Justice Department's commitment to civil rights and public safety in Baltimore", said Vanita Gupta, who ran the civil rights division under President Obama until January.

FILE - In this March 31, 2016, file photo, a Baltimore Police Department patch is seen on an officer's uniform as he stands on a street corner during a foot patrol in Baltimore. "The Justice Department and Attorney General Sessions should be supporting our efforts, not seeking to undermine them".

They mayor said the city has set aside some money for improvements, and while it's "not almost enough", it's "enough to get things moving". "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".

Police unions, however, have expressed frustration with some of the court-approved settlements, known as consent decrees, and they welcomed the shift in policy.

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That investigation was sparked by the 2015 death of an unarmed black man, 25-year-old Freddie Gray, of injuries after he was held in police custody. Ferguson reached agreement with the Justice Department a year ago, settling a lawsuit over racially biased police and court practices in the St. Louis suburb.

Speaking at a news conference at the Dirksen Federal Building in the Loop, Lynch said the report found "reasonable cause" that the police department engaged in a pattern of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. "We're not going to throw the towel in" - and reforms "are going to take place no matter what", Davis said.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into that department in 1999, after several people were attacked by police dogs.

Sessions said in the memo that it's not the role of the federal government to oversee accountability of local law enforcement.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh opposes the request for an extension, she said in a statement. The request was specifically timed to push back a public hearing about the decree.

The review will target "collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation", the memo stated.

The mayor thinks the Justice Department might change portions of Cleveland's consent decree if it believes the agreement hinders the ability to fight crime.