Published: Sat, April 15, 2017
U.S. | By Jeffery Vega

Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms


Blue Lives Matter spokesman Randy Sutton says there was little "consent" because local authorities faced a "weaponized" Department of Justice. The memo directs his department to review, among other things, "current and contemplated consent decrees" to ensure they are in line with Sessions' views on policing and public safety.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and his administration have said they remain committed to meeting the rigorous requirements of the consent decree that include instituting new use-of-force policies and improving relations between police and minority communities. "These agencies have come under a very heavy hand from the Department of Justice".

Warren is one of those departments. They swiftly voiced their opposition to the requested delay, and pledged to press ahead with the business of transforming the police department, with or without a court-enforceable consent decree. "Now, what those things are, I don't know and that is where we'll have to wait and see what those things are".

Civil rights leaders are alarmed by Sessions' memo, anxious his efforts will marginalize issues for communities of color.

Police reform advocates in Chicago, Baltimore and Cleveland are all anxious that the Trump administration will put an end to federal intervention in their cities. In February, Sessions said the federal government's role should be to "help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness", the New York Times reported.

After Sessions sent out the memo calling for the review, DOJ attorneys asked a Maryland judge to delay a court hearing so that it could "review and assess" Baltimore's consent decree. Gurman reported from Washington. We suspect that Sessions is motivated in no small part by President Donald Trump's drive to halt the questioning of police actions such as those in which officers are captured on video shooting or fatally restraining unarmed civilians.

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Last month, a dozen organizations and about 50 individual residents submitted written comments, critiques and recommendations on the proposed consent decree.

Chicago's police department - which was the subject of a scathing DOJ letter issued in January detailing a pattern and practice of excessive force within the department - is even earlier in the process than Baltimore.

Jackson interprets Sessions' statements to mean reform efforts shouldn't impede an officer's ability to address crime. The Justice Department has recommended 272 changes to help improve the scandal-ridden San Francisco Police Department, but the six-month probe a year ago did not lead to a consent decree or a federal takeover. "It says if you're going to do it, you have to do it in a constitutional way and do it with a community component". Most of the reforms have already been done.

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It will likely end hopes for a consent decree to bring federal oversight of the CPD.

Gupta told BuzzFeed News that Sessions' remarks "pit civil rights against crime fighting" and expressed her concern about Baltimore and Chicago - where the negotiations between police and DOJ are ongoing. He says his office unsuccessfully sought internal affairs records from the State's Attorney's Office for two officers a week before they were federally indicted for fraud and abuses. The agreement was reached during the final days of the Obama administration.

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