- Sessions expressed skepticism about consent decrees during his confirmation hearing;
- He has said police departments “often feel forced to agree to a consent decree”;
The US Attorney General Jeff Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreement, including any existing or contemplated consent decrees, according to a memorandum released Monday.
The instruction comes at a critical time where several major cities in the US including Baltimore and Chicago, experience unconstitutional methods of racial discrimination and police use of excessive force in policing.
During the Obama administration, the Justice Department usually negotiated formal reform agreement with cities in certain cases which take the patter of “consent decree” overseen by a federal court.
According to the two-page memo the DOJ is required to promptly review all “collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation,” in order to ensure that they fully promote the Trump administration’s goals of working with law enforcement “to ensure public safety.”
During the Senate hearing for the office of the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Session’s skepticism about the effectiveness of consent decrees was exhaustively discussed during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing.
“I think there is concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department that have done wrong,” Sessions said in January.
“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.”
After federal monitoring for more than a year, the Justice Department entered a 227-page consent decree with Baltimore with the report revealing “systemic deficiencies” in training, policies and accountability structures that “fail[ed] to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively.”
However, attorneys for the Justice Department have asked a federal judge in Maryland on Monday to reschedule future hearing in the case till June 2017.
“The Department must ensure that such contemplated consent decrees advance the safety and protection of the public, promote officer safety and morale, protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public, respect local control of law enforcement, are rooted in timely and reliable statistics on crime and criminals, and do not impede recruitment and training of officers,” attorneys for the department wrote in Monday’s court filing.
“There are few better examples of places where such difficult and important work is necessary than Baltimore.”