Judge OKs con­sent de­cree to re­form po­lice de­part­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

A fed­eral judge on Fri­day ap­proved a pro­posed con­sent de­cree to re­form the Bal­ti­more Po­lice De­part­ment — sidelin­ing the Trump Jus­tice De­part­ment, which had sought to de­lay court ap­proval of an agree­ment bro­kered by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge James K. Bredar de­nied a Jus­tice De­part­ment re­quest to hold off sign­ing the agree­ment while new leadership reviewed the pro­posal, which was ne­go­ti­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment had this week re­quested to de­lay a Thurs­day court hear­ing on the pro­posal, say­ing it needed to re­view the pro­posed con­sent de­cree in light of new guid­ance is­sued by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

Late Mon­day, the at­tor­ney gen­eral an­nounced sweep­ing re­view of Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ter­ac­tions with lo­cal law en­force­ment to in­clude the court-en­force­able con­sent de­crees used to over­haul trou­bled po­lice de­part­ments.

Mr. Ses­sions blasted the judge’s ap­proval of the agree­ment, say­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions were rushed in the wan­ing days of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“While the De­part­ment of Jus­tice con­tin­ues to fully sup­port po­lice re­form in Bal­ti­more, I have grave con­cerns that some pro­vi­sions of this de­cree will re­duce the law­ful pow­ers of the po­lice de­part­ment and re­sult in a less safe city,” he said in a state­ment re­leased Fri­day.

Cit­ing ris­ing crime statis­tics in the city, in­clud­ing last year’s 22 per­cent in­crease in vi­o­lent crime, Mr. Ses­sions said that ar­rests in the city had fallen by 45 per­cent “based on some of these ill-ad­vised re­forms.”

Judge Bredar wrote in his eight-page or­der that the pro­posed de­cree is “fair, ad­e­quate, and rea­son­able” and that its ap­proval is in the public in­ter­est.

“The case is no longer in a phase where any party is uni­lat­er­ally en­ti­tled to re­con­sider the terms of the set­tle­ment; the par­ties are bound to each other by their prior agree­ment,” the judge wrote. “The time for ne­go­ti­at­ing the agree­ment is over.”

Bal­ti­more Mayor Cather­ine Pugh and Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis have pledged sup­port for the agree­ment.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment un­der­took a re­view of polic­ing prac­tices in Bal­ti­more af­ter the 2015 death of Fred­die Gray, who died from in­juries to his neck and spine af­ter he was ar­rested and placed in the back of a po­lice van.

Its re­port found that of­fi­cers un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally stopped and searched res­i­dents, dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted black res­i­dents and fre­quently resorted to phys­i­cal force dur­ing in­ter­ac­tions that didn’t war­rant it.

Con­sent de­crees be­came a hall­mark of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Jus­tice De­part­ment, with the Bal­ti­more agree­ment fi­nal­ized just days be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump was sworn into of­fice.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment opened 25 in­ves­ti­ga­tions into law en­force­ment agen­cies since 2009. At the time Bal­ti­more’s agree­ment was inked, the Jus­tice De­part­ment was en­forc­ing 15 such con­sent de­crees.

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