Federal judge in Baltimore approves sweeping plan for police reforms

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 21, 2017

Sessions has advanced what has been dubbed the "Ferguson effect" - the unproven theory that civil rights investigations have made police less aggressive, leading to a spike in crime in cities like Chicago.

As new Attorney General Jeff Sessions signals his Justice Department may back out of such federal agreements with troubled police departments, a look at some of them shows they can be popular but also carry mixed results.

An attorney for the Justice Department says the agency has "grave concerns" about a proposed agreement.

After Thursday's public comment hearing - which Bredar declined to postpone at the government's request this week - the city filed a motion for admission pro hac vice on behalf of Debo P. Adegbile, a NY attorney who serves as commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "We would like to move forward", Ralph said.

"What we are talking about, especially the technology piece, is to improve policing in the city, and that's what we will be looking for federal assistance to do", Pugh said.

Baltimore residents overwhelmingly voiced support for a proposed overhaul.

The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. and concluded about 1:15 p.m., after all members of the public present _ 49 in total _ had their chance to speak.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, approved implementing the agreement, which was initially negotiated and signed by the Baltimore Police Department and the Obama-era Department of Justice. I welcome this consent decree because it is a step in a positive direction.

Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior declined comment.

The Justice Department has indicated that it intends to review all existing consent decrees to determine whether they hinder efforts to fight violence crime.

A judge on Wednesday denied a request to delay the hearing, calling the request by President Donald Trump's administration a "burden and inconvenience". "I understand your viewpoint".

Less than three months ago, Baltimore and the Justice Department under Attorney General Loretta Lynch agreed the terms of the decree after a federal investigation of Baltimore police found patterns of unconstitutional behavior, racial discrimination and excessive force. Thursday's hearing will be the first opportunity for residents to publicly voice their concerns. In its brief, the DOJ argued for delaying the hearing by 90 days, so the Trump administration could "assess whether and how the provisions of the proposed consent decree" comported with the various principles and plans it had put in place since Trump's inauguration on January 20.

The consent decree was hammered out between Baltimore officials and the Justice Department in the waning days of President Barack Obama's administration.

Two mothers spoke of their sons being shot and killed by Baltimore police officers in past years. We are not scapegoating police officers for our city's problems.

Rebecca Shillen said she recently saw a group of neighborhood kids playing cops and robbers in the street. Criticism continues, much of it focused on individual officers involved in deadly uses of force.

While Sessions' Justice Department can't dump these agreements without the courts - they'd already be gone if he could - his objectives are clear.

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

The federal probe was prompted by the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was fatally injured while being transported in a police van. Consent decrees do not mean the federal government is managing local police departments but an attempt to hold them accountable.

"It is very important that our community as well as the police, our fire, all of our local officials have great relationships with the community".

But even these critics see that controversial acts of officers come in the context of an entire culture and structure of policing that requires ongoing improvements in training, tactics and oversight.

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