Judge denies U.S. request to delay Baltimore police reform hearing

The Justice Department filed a motion earlier this week to push back the hearing, scheduled for Thursday, until June.

All the local players - and until recently the Justice Department - agreed that this consent decree is necessary to achieve systemic reform of policing. And it is a slap in the face to the people of Baltimore, who are anxious to move forward to fix a deeply broken system. She called the consent decree "a step in the right direction". "It would be especially inappropriate to grant this late request for a delay when it would be the public who were most adversely affected by a postponement".

Justice Department attorney John Gore asked the judge to delay approving the consent decree to give new leadership time to review and assess whether the agreement would hinder efforts to fight violent crime.

Baltimore Solicitor David Ralph said Thursday that the plan was created to help police fight crime while also protecting residents' rights and repairing trust between the community and the department. The Obama administration used consent decrees frequently, and generally, DeCarlo said, there is little evidence to show any increases in crime resulting from increased police oversight.

"Obviously the court has said that we have a consent decree in Newark and they don't have the authority to overturn a court decision so we're OK with what's happening in the city of Newark", he said.

The public will be commenting on the consent decree, a court-enforceable agreement announced in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Noting that the DOJ request came just two days ago ("at the close of business on Monday April 3"), Bredar said the last-minute motion was unfair to the parties, to the courthouse personnel who have rearranged dockets and assigned extra security and, primarily, to the public.

In a letter to US Attorney's offices across the country, Sessions explained that the Hate Crimes Subcommittee "will develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes to better protect the rights of all Americans".

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

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided an update on the Justice Department's new crime reduction task force Wednesday, including new details on a subcommittee that will specifically focus on hate crime prevention. "Providing policing services in many parts of Baltimore is particularly challenging, where officers regularly confront complex social problems rooted in poverty, racial segregation and deficient educational, employment and housing opportunities".

"You know, after we adopted those suggestions, I think you saw a downturn in proactive policing in the last few years in the way the environment's been in the country", said Casaday. "Still, most BPD officers work hard to provide vital services to the community". Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called it "a punch in the gut", and was clear in his message that both he and the department are in support of a consent decree. It is unclear how precisely the process will unfold from here.

Encouragingly, officials in both Baltimore and Chicago said they want to move forward with plans for police reforms no matter what the federal government does.

Almost all residents who testified Thursday voiced strong support for the consent decree and urged the judge to sign it swiftly.

  • Larry Hoffman