Thursday, 19 July, 2018

President Xi in Alaska, reforming Baltimore's police and political chaos in Venezuela

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about crime to local state and federal law enforcement officials March 31 in St. Louis President Xi in Alaska, reforming Baltimore's police and political chaos in Venezuela
Alfredo Watts | 21 April, 2017, 18:07

John Gore, representing the Justice Department, had attempted and failed to delay the hearing. The agreement was reached during the final days of the Obama administration. The consent decree will then be declared approved and an implementation date set and the "objective federal observer" will be appointed to make sure it's enforced.

Evidence of Sessions' efforts to scale back Obama-era attempts to establish a more equal justice came this week when the Justice Department sought to delay a sweeping reform effort aimed at the Baltimore Police Department.

While some suspected this was coming, I must first say that I am still very disappointed by the news this week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is shying away from the Department of Justice's prior commitments to help cities like Milwaukee enact police reforms.

In April 2015, Baltimore erupted in the worst rioting in decades over the death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken during what prosecutors said was a jolting ride in a police van while handcuffed and shackled.

Gray's unexplained death brought on several days of riots, looting and protest.

That alarmed civil rights advocates anxious that Sessions and Trump, who emphasized law and order in his White House run, might retreat on efforts to curb police abuse. Sessions is leading a stunning retreat from the federal government's largely positive involvement in police reform. Bredar's ruling called the Justice Department's report on patterns of unconstitutional conduct in the Baltimore Police Department "deeply troubling". Our goal is a stronger police department that fights crime while it serves and protects the civil and constitutional rights of our residents.

On Thursday, a federal district judge waved off Sessions' concerns in OK'ing the Baltimore decree.

A USA judge on Friday approved an agreement to overhaul Baltimore's beleaguered police department, including changes in training and the use of force after officers were found to have routinely harassed minorities.

"These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness, and we need to be careful before we do that", he said during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Ralph urged the court to enter the decree without delay, saying it includes provisions that allow the DOJ to make changes to the agreement. At a press conference, mayor Catherine Pugh called the decision "a great victory for the citizens of Baltimore, as well as the Baltimore Police Department".

"As Judge Bredar noted, Baltimore can not flourish without effective and lawful policing, and this consent decree represents the first step towards that reality", NAACP LDF president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill said in a statement released Friday.

The two parties spoke at the beginning of a public hearing, before city residents and representatives of local civil rights organizations and community groups began voicing their thoughts on the proposed consent decree.

Currently, the Department of Justice is party to 14 consent decrees with municipalities and law enforcement agencies regarding their policing practices.

Mr. Sessions has expressed skepticism of the practice of using consent decrees to change police department practices.