Mandated police reform could make Baltimore 'less safe,' Attorney General Sessions says

"I have grave concerns," said Sessions.

ByGENEVA SANDS
April 7, 2017, 5:28 PM

— -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday in a statement that he has "grave concerns" that some provisions of the Baltimore consent decree will reduce the powers of the police department and "result in a less safe city."

A federal judge today denied the government's request for a 30-day delay and approved the consent decree, which sets into motion mandated police reform.

U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, approved implementing the agreement, which was initially negotiated and signed by the Baltimore Police Department and the Obama-era Department of Justice.

The Sessions-led DOJ had requested to postpone a scheduled hearing and delay the implementation of the decree, in order to review and assess the proposed consent decree and confer with Baltimore "in light of this Administration’s recent directives."

Consent decrees often give the federal Justice Department authority to direct specific changes and initiatives within local police departments, with the agreement that judges oversee and enforce those changes.

In January, after months of negotiation, DOJ and the City of Baltimore reached an agreement on a decree, pending approval by a judge.

The Justice Department had released a scathing report on the Baltimore Police Department last year, under the Obama administration, alleging a pattern of unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

Last week, Sessions issued a memo to top Justice Department officials, directing them "to immediately review" all department activities, including "existing or contemplated consent decrees."

"The case is no longer in a phase where any party is unilaterally entitled to reconsider the terms of the settlement," wrote Bredar in a memorandum today. The judge added that the parties "are bound to each other by their prior agreement."

Sessions had said the decree "was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office."

Though he said he "continues to fully support police reform in Baltimore," he doesn't support the consent decree.

"I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department," Sessions said in the statement, "and result in a less safe city."

The decree, he believes, contains "clear departures from many proven principles of good policing that we fear will result in more crime."

Both the Baltimore mayor's office and police department objected to DOJ's request for any delay.

"We are pleased to hear of Judge Bredar's decision to enter the negotiated consent decree. This will support and, in fact, accelerate many needed reforms in the areas of training, technology, and internal accountability systems," said detective Jeremy Silbert, public information officer of the Baltimore Police Department.

Mike Levine contributed to this story.

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