Juliet Linderman (AP) reports in the Washington Post:
“BALTIMORE — A federal judge has approved an agreement negotiated under the Obama administration to overhaul the troubled Baltimore police force, sweeping aside objections from the Trump Justice Department.
President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, promptly warned that the agreement may result in “a less safe city.”
U.S. District Judge James Bredar signed the so-called consent decree Friday, a day after a hearing to solicit comments from Baltimore residents, calling the plan “comprehensive, detailed and precise.”
He denied a request to delay the signing to give the Trump administration more time to review the agreement. At Thursday’s hearing, a Justice Department attorney expressed “grave concerns” about the plan, aimed at rooting out racist practices.
The consent decree was negotiated during the closing days of the Obama administration after a federal investigation found rampant abuse by Baltimore police, including unlawful stops and use of excessive force against black people.
The investigation was prompted by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken during a lurching ride in the back of a police van, where he had been left unbuckled, his hands and legs shackled. Gray’s death touched off the worst rioting in Baltimore in decades.
In a memo made public earlier this week, the Trump Justice Department signaled that it may retreat from the consent decrees that have been put in place in recent years in such cities as Cleveland; Ferguson, Missouri; Miami; and Newark, New Jersey.
Sessions said in a statement Friday that the Baltimore agreement shows “clear departures from many proven principles of good policing that we fear will result in more crime.”
“The decree was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office,” Sessions said. “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.”
While the consent decree process was probably accelerated by the Obama Administration’s accurate belief that the Trump Administration would be unlikely to uphold civil rights, particularly for African Americans, the decree was based on a detailed 163 page report that was accepted and incorporated by U.S. District Judge Bredar. Here’s a link to that report: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883366/download.
By contrast, Session’s memorandum calling for DOJ review of consent decrees, among other things, was less than two pages, phrased in conclusory stock language, and contained no factual basis whatsoever for the review. Nor has Sessions ever explained what the problem might be with the detailed report prepared as a result of an investigation by his predecessor, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Remarkably, Sessions obstinance comes in the same week that a court-appointed monitor found that a similar consent decree in Seattle had resulted in a dramatic reduction in incidents of police use of force against citizens while increasing neither crime nor injuries to police officers. See prior blog here: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-El.