Baltimore police overhaul is approved over Trump objections

Today, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar went ahead and approved the Baltimore consent decree, adopting the reforms despite Sessions' protests. We had eagerly anticipated the release of a report with analysis and recommendations meant to help us create a police department that was more transparent and responsive to residents' concerns, and the police chief, many leaders within his department and numerous city's elected officials had demonstrated an unwavering commitment to getting to work on these important tasks.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested a review of all 114 reform agreements the Justice Department had secured with cities across the country during the Obama administration.

"The Attorney General's attempts to re-litigate or eliminate policing reforms created to address systemic misconduct represents a morally bankrupt step that could have disastrous results regarding the protection of Black lives", said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks.

Sessions pointed to the so-called "Ferguson effect" taking place in Baltimore since the Gray-riots, where police back off enforcement for fear of inflaming the public fury and incurring sanction for civil rights violations. While local officials cheered the order, which seeks to reform the troubled Baltimore Police Department after the Obama Justice Department found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory practices, Sessions issued a blistering statement predicting that crime would rise as a result. The U.S. Justice Department has indicated that it intends to review all existing agreements to determine whether they hinder efforts to fight violent crime. The Civil Rights Division launched the investigation after the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while in police custody in 2015. This decree was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office. "We are hurting. We appreciate the Department of Justice coming, but we live through this on a daily basis". The decree also mandates an overhaul of the way the department handles encounters with mentally ill residents, and sexual assault cases.

The police department says the agreement "will support and, in fact, accelerate many needed reforms in the areas of training, technology, and internal accountability systems".

"I believe that it makes Baltimore safer", she said.

Baltimore's police chief at the time of Gray's death was dismissed by Pugh's predecessor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The Justice Department initially wanted the judge to postpone the hearing.

The consent decree must be approved by the court to become binding.

City leaders and civil rights organizers had urged residents to ask the Trump Justice Department to remain committed to the deal, which was negotiated in the waning days of President Barack Obama's presidency.

Mayor Catherine Pugh disputed the notion the decree will hurt the fight against crime.

  • Larry Hoffman