Lynh Bui and Peter Hermann report in the Washington Post:
“BALTIMORE — After the federal government released a searing 163-page report in August condemning police practices in Baltimore, the police commissioner and mayor stood with Justice Department leaders to promise sweeping reform.
Change was necessary, they all said, not only to prevent riots like those that flared after the fatal injury of Freddie Gray in police custody, but also to repair the long-standing, deep rift between the city’s crime-weary residents and its police.
Nine months later, Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner again appeared before television cameras committing to overhaul the department.
But this time they stood by themselves.
“I’m asking the citizens of Baltimore to have faith that we will continue this work,” Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) said Tuesday. “It’s hard to deny that these kinds of reforms don’t need to take place in the city of Baltimore.”
On January 12, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Dept. reached a deal for sweeping reforms to the Baltimore Police Dept. after a federal review found officers routinely violated residents’ civil rights. (Reuters)
The pledge to move ahead came hours after the Justice Department had asked a federal judge Monday night to postpone the department’s tentative police reform agreement with the city — part of a wider review of pacts nationwide ordered by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Baltimore consent agreement was announced days before President Trump took office and awaits a federal judge’s approval.
The request for a delay, which a judge has yet to rule on, left some Baltimore leaders and residents worried that momentum will wane and leave the city stuck in a familiar loop of unfulfilled promises.
Interim city solicitor David Ralph would not comment Tuesday on whether the city would file a response to the requested delay.
“It seemed clear that Justice was going ahead with these reforms, and now all of a sudden they don’t want to do it,” said Rebecca Nagle, co-director of the No Boundaries Coalition, a resident-led advocacy group.
The coalition helped organize residents to relay their experiences with city police to the Justice Department team that produced the August report, which concluded that the police department engaged in unconstitutional policing that discriminated against black residents in poor communities through illegal searches, arrests and stops for minor offenses.
“Residents invested two years doing this, and not going forward will destroy the trust that has built up,” Nagle said.
In Sessions’s two-page memo ordering the review of open and pending consent decrees, he said the department wants to guarantee the pacts are in line with Trump administration goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.
“The Federal government alone cannot successfully address rising crime rates, secure public safety, protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public, or implement best practices in policing,” the memo stated. “These are, first and foremost, tasks for state, local and tribal law enforcement.”
Now, I might only be a retired Immigration Judge, not a civil rights expert. But, even I can tell that if “state and local law enforcement” could solve this problem, it would have been solved long ago.
In fact, until former Attorney General Lynch and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division intervened, state and local authorities had done their best to cover up the problems and avoid solving them. (And, I’m by no means a fan of Lynch. She was appropriately very interested in vindicating the civil rights of African Americans. But, she wasn’t interested in the human rights of mostly Hispanic women and children fleeing Central America. She aided and abetted a system of detention of such asylum applicants under deplorable conditions and hustling their cases through the U.S. Immigration Courts, in too many cases without full due process or even an opportunity for a fair hearing.)
No, what Sessions really means is that he has no interest whatsoever in helping the African American community vindicate their civil rights if it means clamping down on police abuses. After all, look at the “bang up” job that Session’s home state, Alabama, did on protecting its African American citizens from police abuses for most of the 20th Century. Who could ask for more? Or, perhaps we should get a “second opinion” from Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who had his head split open by one of Sessions’s “police heroes,” an Alabama State Trooper.
That’s what often happens when the Feds rely on states and localities to vindicate citizen’s constitutional rights against the state’s own abuses. Classic “fox guarding the chicken coop.” Sort of like having Jeff Sessions protecting the rights of minorities and migrants. Yeah, the Birmingham Bridge incident was in 1965. But, Sessions and his gang have every intention of turning the clock back to those “glory days” of state’s rights.
Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was “silenced” on the Senate floor for “disparaging” a colleague, Senator Sessions, by putting the truth about his tone-deaf record on civil and human rights “in the record.” But, silenced or not, Warren spoke truth about Session’s unsuitability to serve as Attorney General. Sadly, African Americans, Hispanics, members of the LGBT community, and migrants are likely to find out first hand that “he’s still the same ol’ Jeff.”