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Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms”

President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has a markedly different view on federal investigations of local police departments.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to review reform agreements the Obama administration made with police departments across the country, in the latest move to boost law enforcement morale and independence.

The investigation into Cleveland police initially began after several use-of-force incidents, including one in which police officers fired 137 rounds at two people in a vehicle after a high-speed chase in 2012.

He said Justice Department officials made their request "without a whole lot of justification".

U.S. District Judge James Bredar wrote that the request filed on Monday came at the "eleventh hour" after significant resources and planning went into holding an unusual public hearing on the merits of the proposed agreement. "It'll make us better, it'll make the city better, it'll make our relationships with the community better".

Earlier this week, the Justice Department had announced that it intends to review and assess all existing consent decrees to determine whether they will hamper efforts to fight violent crime in those cities.

"The memo is disappointing to say the least", Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the ACLU, told The Intercept. "To suggest that the government should just leave it to local police departments is just frightening".

The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision. The "collaborative reform initiative" by the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is expected to wrap up this summer with a list of recommendations.

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In Baltimore, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the move a "punch to the gut" at a Tuesday news conference.

"This is a court matter", Oliver said January 6.

But the head of the Baltimore police union, Lieutenant Gene Ryan, said the union should have more of a voice in the process.

BALTIMORE (AP) — A federal judge refused Wednesday to delay a hearing on a proposed agreement to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department, calling the Trump administration's request a "burden and inconvenience". 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. She said the memo was broad and vague and "not specific enough to let us know what exactly is going to happen".

In the context of the police reform, consent decrees involve the Justice Department working with a particular police department to correct finding systemic issues within it (though legally, this is not an admission of guilt by the department). For us, the judge fully controls the consent decree. Civil rights activists have expressed concern that Sessions's memo jeopardizes the status of agreements that haven't been finalized yet.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has advocated for police reform, said the government has only investigated "the worst offenders" - 25 departments out of some 18,000 since 2009.

Christy Lopez, who also helped to oversee police reform investigations at the DOJ under Obama, said such a drastic budget cut would be a "silent killer" of the Civil Rights Division, including its work on police reform.



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