Former AG signed memo curtailing use of police consent decrees before leaving office
Jeff Sessions had previously criticized the civil rights decree designed to reform the Baltimore Police Department, saying it was linked to rising crime
By Christina Tkacik
The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — Before he was fired by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed a memo that appears to curtail the Department of Justice’s ability to implement and enforce consent decrees like the one Baltimore has entered to reform its police department.
Sessions had previously criticized the civil rights decree designed to reform the Baltimore Police Department, saying it was linked to rising crime. He called the city “one of the most tragic examples” of how such agreements impose restrictions on police officers.
The decree followed a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department during the Obama administration that concluded Baltimore Police were routinely violating people’s constitutional rights.
“State governments are sovereigns with special and protected roles under our constitutional order,” Sessions stated in the memo, dated Wednesday. The document is designed to give defendant state and local governments more power in negotiating the agreements.
Under the new guidelines, released by the Department of Justice on Thursday, consent decrees should get approval from senior DOJ leadership, should last no more than three years and must have a “sunset” provision that terminates the decree once the defendant demonstrates complicance with the federal law.
The use of monitors, such as the one currently overseeing Baltimore’s compliance, is to be limited.
Lawyers for the Justice Department sought to delay the finalization of the decree shortly after Sessions took over, saying they had concerns about rising crime. But U.S. District Judge James Bredar moved ahead despite their opposition.