Baltimore officials to judge: Don't delay police overhaul

A memo by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Department of Justice to review the agency's investigations of local police departments will not alter a court-ordered agreement between the DOJ and Cleveland to reform its police department, city officials and the judge overseeing a court-monitored consent decree said.

The Justice Department's decision to review all Obama-era policing consent decrees is not meant to make police officers more accountable to the communities they serve.

A judge has denied the U.S. Justice Department's request to postpone hearing on the proposal to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department.

Trump, Sessions and the president's surrogates have said the kind of court-mandated reform efforts favored by Obama's Justice Department are not necessary and that officers need support to ensure they can effectively fight crime. Jeff Sessions says officers do risky work every day. Funding for the department's Civil Rights Division-which handles police reform work-is not addressed explicitly in the budget outline, but a blueprint drafted by the Heritage Foundation, from which parts of Trump's budget appear to be lifted, would cut $58 million from the Civil Rights Division, or 33 percent of its current budget.

The pause was swiftly condemned by Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

An attorney for the city of Baltimore says it is ready and willing to enter into a court-enforceable agreement to implement sweeping reforms to the city's troubled police department.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct in the Baltimore Police Department in 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in a police transport wagon, plunged the city into civil unrest.

The resulting Justice Department report found that Ferguson's police practices were racially biased against African-Americans, who made up a disproportionate number of vehicle stops, citations, and arrests.

The Justice Department began investigating Chicago police shortly after police released video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.

The Baltimore Police Department announced it had worked out a tentative consent decree with the Justice Department just days before Trump took office. Posner, however, responds that since the program first started in the mid-1990s, the Justice Department has launched legal action against only a tiny sliver of the 18,000 police departments across the United States.

Some unions have chafed under consent decrees, calling them costly, ineffective and stigmatizing to officers.

Gore said there has been a spike in crime in Baltimore and the administration wants to make sure that the agreement "will help rather than hinder public safety".

"I think there are departments around the nation that probably should have federal oversight over them due to the problems they've had and the lack of response from those departments to those communities", said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd ward, and council's police and fire committee chairman, said he does not mind the idea of reviewing the effectiveness of the consent decree.

Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis believed the proposed agreement would fix public trust in the police while also quelling violence.