Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

CLEVELAND Police-reform efforts to persist despite United States memo

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said Justice Department lawyers are merely asking the judge in Baltimore for more time to review the agreement, considering the new Sessions memo "and the progress toward reform Baltimore has made in the pasts several months". These deals are called consent decrees.

The city and justice department reached the agreement, known as a consent decree, in January, nearly two years after the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, of injuries sustained while in police custody sparked a day of rioting and arson in the majority-black city.

Advocates who spoke with The Stranger also don't seem anxious about Sessions' announcement. The memo also mentions Sessions' past comments including softening of the DOJ's approach towards reform. He's says it isn't the federal government's job to manage state and local law enforcement agencies, which is a shift from the Obama administration.

Baltimore could be one city adversely affected by Sessions' directive. It could also seek to renegotiate the terms of a decree or to have it dropped altogether-though that would be hard even with the cooperation of a police department, Smith said.

To that end, during the Barack Obama administration, the Department of Justice launched oversight programs with many struggling police departments. In Baltimore, officials asked for federal help in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man whose spine was severed in the back of a police van. He cited interviews with about a half dozen Latino business owners, who said they had no complaints.

"We're under a consent decree for a reason. That doesn't bode well".

"What they press and don't press will probably change", Jackson said of the Justice Department.

"The mayor's committed to seeing this through, and that's what's going to happen", said Greg White, Cleveland's Consent Decree Implementation Coordinator.

The consent decree, if approved, would be a binding agreement mandating the police department implement sweeping reforms to address the discriminatory and unconstitutional practices identified.

"I am bound to convey that the attorney general has some grave concerns about this particular decree and whether it will in fact achieves goal of improving policing, and improving public safety and strengthening civil rights", Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore, told Judge James K. Bredar.

Indeed, in order to undo any of the terms agreed upon by those departments who have already signed agreements with the federal government, Sessions would need to get a judge to sign off. "I think it will bring about a better police department".

"East Haven is only one of many communities across the country that has seen very big improvements in police, police-community relations and community security as a result of municipalities responding to the federal government", said David Rosen, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the civil rights case against the East Haven Police Department. A federal monitor would be appointed to oversee the process, reporting directly to Bredar.

A federal judge in Baltimore has denied the Justice Department's request to delay a public hearing scheduled for Thursday on a pending agreement to reform the Baltimore Police Department, CBS News justice reporter Paula Reid reports.

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