Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

In a new memo made public Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for what amounts to a review of some two dozen agreements between the DOJ's Civil Rights Division and police departments across the country.

The Justice Department asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on a proposed reform agreement to overhaul the Baltimore police department.

But Sessions's memo dated March 31 says it is not the federal government's responsibility to manage local police departments and even wanted an immediate review of all DOJ activities, including existing or contemplated consent decrees.

Over Obama's tenure, the Justice Department headed by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was especially critical in its evaluation of law enforcement, often blaming police departments for a "culture of racism".

Baltimore officials are telling a federal judge they want to move forward with a plan to overhaul the city's troubled police department despite a Justice Department request to delay it. The government's request for a 90-day continuance came three days before a scheduled hearing before a federal judge.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all Justice Department involvement with local law enforcement and requested the delay.

But the head of the Baltimore police union, Lieutenant Gene Ryan, said the union should have more of a voice in the process.

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The proposed consent decree in Baltimore comes after the Justice Department released a scathing report previous year detailing longstanding patterns racial profiling and excessive force within the city's police force.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the department has been well-served by federal oversight, but that he believes Sessions' goals are "on-point".

"To say that they may have been flawed in cases where they were able to reach an agreement in cases where they found some harm - but not able to be flawed in cases where they didn't find any harm - to me seems to be biased and strategically motivated to discredit the work of the Justice Department under the Obama administration", he said. The US Department of Justice is never going to get to those. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will fight to block funding for any effort to thwart the urgent need for police reform".

"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties", said NAACP President Cornell Brooks, according to the Associated Press.

A statement released today by the city of Cleveland says Mayor Frank Jackson remains committed to implementing police reforms required by the consent decree.

"The facts and the data show that in fact when consent decrees work that they make it easier for police officers to do their jobs, it better protects public safety, and it also protects vulnerable communities and their rights that have historically suffered under bad police practices".

"We will continue to pursue outcomes that both protect the civil rights of all community members and preserve the safety of law enforcement officers", said Kevin Sonoff, public affairs officer for the OR office.

Stoughton points to examples like Ferguson, where the city was over-policing poor, minority communities and using fines for misdemeanors as a major revenue source, and NY, where the NYPD's stop and frisk policy was ultimately ruled unconstitutional because it unfairly targeted people of color. I, along with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and the citizens of Baltimore, recognize that reforming our police department is long overdue.

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