Peter Hermann and Justin Jouvenal report in the Washington Post:
“BALTIMORE — A Justice Department attorney expressed “grave concerns” Thursday about moving forward with a federal plan to make changes to this city’s police department, telling a federal judge that the Trump administration prefers that revisions be made and overseen by local government.
The hearing to gather public input on the proposed consent decree became a clash over the future of police departments, as Baltimore residents affected by police shootings and beatings forcefully pushed back against any delays.
The hearing came just days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would have top deputies review such agreements with departments nationwide.
Sessions said he wanted to ensure the agreements align with administration priorities of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime, but advocates say the move could stymie much-needed changes to departments in the wake of high-profile police shootings of minorities in recent years.
The tension was on display Thursday, as well as an unusual role reversal — the Justice Department distanced itself from its plan negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Baltimore officials, residents and activists openly embraced it.
“Please do not delay this decree,” implored Greta Carter-Willis, whose 14-year-old son was fatally shot by a police officer several years ago. “We need to turn this police department around.”
She later broke down crying.
The consent decree follows a blistering Justice Department report that found widespread constitutional violations and discrimination in the Baltimore Police Department. The report was prompted by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in police custody.
John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of Justice, said in court Thursday that the department wanted a 30-day delay on a decision to implement the plan “so new leadership can reanalyze and engage with the city as necessary.
Ultimately, “it is up to local communities to try and work with police to try and ensure reforms are implemented fully,” Gore said. “We have grave concerns that this consent decree is what is needed” as the means to change the police force and help fight crime.”
. . . .
Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, called the situation in Baltimore “unprecedented and extraordinary.” He said there is no precedent for a lead party to pull out after a consent decree is signed and the matter is before the court. “We are in uncharted territory.”
Smith, was in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under the Obama administration from 2010 through 2015 and negotiated a consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department.”
The grotesque spectacle of Jeff Sessions in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice continues to get more jaw-dropping every day.
It wasn’t long ago that Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Nuke Em” McConnell (R-KY) shut down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) while she was trying to “complete the record” on Sessions’s total unsuitability to be in charge of overseeing the delivery of justice in America and protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans (which actually includes immigrants who are entitled to constitutional due process protections). Everybody who doubted the truth of her message owes Sen. Warren a huge apology. And, those Senators who voted to confirm Sessions as AG should be ashamed.
Ever wonder how much damage one man can do the the U.S. justice system? Well, we’re finding out. And, it isn’t pretty.