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Baltimore officials to judge: Don't delay police overhaul

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Forget about Sessions and keep pushing Chicago police reform

The Justice Department requested earlier this week that U.S. District Judge James Bredar postpone a public hearing on civil rights reforms at the embattled Baltimore Police Department.

City officials also wrote it "strains credulity" to believe the March 31 release of a two-page directive by Sessions "which reiterates long standing principles of federal-local law enforcement collaboration" should necessitate a delay.

The investigation into Baltimore's police force was sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury while being transported in a police van. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, city leaders declared their support for the consent decree after learning of the DOJ's decision to delay a key court hearing pertaining to the proposed agreement. The investigation found officers were overzealous in use of deadly force, used tactics that sparked confrontations and did a poor job of investigating the shootings.

Activists and civil rights groups criticized the Department of Justice's (DOJ) pause on police reform, calling the move "alarming" Tuesday.

Although the territory has missed every deadline for meeting the consent decree's mandates, it has nonetheless made steady progress in recent years in reaching compliance with a majority of paragraphs in the agreement. He said the department has similar concerns about such police reform agreements nationwide. Soon after, the Justice Department and the city of Baltimore negotiated a consent decree, whereby the city agreed to a federal court order requiring a detailed police reform process.

The one party asking for a delay was the federal government - which had produced a blistering report about ingrained department practices last summer and pushed for the consent decree.

"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties", Brooks said. "We need to turn this police department around". The agreement cost Detroit more than $50 million, including $15 million for court-appointed monitoring teams.

The Justice Department had requested a 90-day delay in today's hearing.

Chris Magnus is the Police Chief in Tucson, Arizona, and, to be clear, his tweet does not represent his work or department in any official capacity. He urged the judge to sign the decree, but said people suffering from mental health crises shouldn't be funneled into the criminal justice system, and that the city should design a "comprehensive crisis system that focuses on recovery and community integration".

A government attorney weighed in on the proposed consent decree at a public hearing as about 50 Baltimore residents lined up to endorse the reforms and complain of deep-seated racism, abuse and deadly force at the hands of the police.

In a March 31 memo sent to DOJ department heads and US attorneys, Sessions ordered a review of "all Department activities" to make sure they align with Trump's platform of being superficially pro-law enforcement.

Davis says the department can enact reforms itself, but change won't come at the pace that it is needed without such an agreement. "It's in our self-interest, and it's important both for trust and public safety reasons". In other words, under Trump, even the most dramatic and shocking cases of police murder of Black citizens will not be allowed to trigger department-wide reforms of the police.

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the independent watchdog New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission, said a massive paper trail is necessary for the courts to determine if police departments are complying with a consent decree's terms. This was supposed to be a hearing where the public would be able to express its thoughts on the agreement. A settlement in 2012 overhauled the police department's training and procedures, all aimed at reducing unnecessary uses of force and improving citizens' trust in officers. The latter effort led to the signing of the consent decree. "It sounds as if the intention of the mayor was to do this, consent decree or no consent decree".

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