There’s still a chance that a consent decree containing required reforms for the Baltimore Police Department could be ready by January — before Donald Trump’s administration takes over — according to outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Lynch mentioned that possibility during a recorded Playbook Breakfast by Politico. Many have been wondering if the consent decree is stuck in limbo or if it could take effect before Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, takes over the U.S Department of Justice.
Lawyers for Baltimore City and the U.S. Justice Department have been negotiating the terms of a legally binding consent decree for the police department since the feds published their findings from a “pattern-or-practice” investigation of the department this past August. Investigators concluded Baltimore police had some major issues with unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, use of force, racial discrimination, handling of sexual assault cases and a host of other problems. Now-former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for the investigation after the city was overcome by violence following Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of police.
Lynch noted today that she actually was sworn into her current position as the top lawyer in the Obama administration on April 28, 2015, the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral. She said her first trip as attorney general was to Baltimore and that she spoke with residents, city officials and police during her time here.
Lynch said the DOJ and the Baltimore Police Department had already been discussing ways to reform the police department’s policies before the riots, “but it was clear that more was needed and that the bond was truly broken there in Baltimore.” After the DOJ published its findings this past August, those reforms became mandatory.
The City and the DOJ had imposed a deadline of Nov. 1 to finish the agreement, but that day came and went. The former mayor then disclosed during one of her final weeks in office that the agreement would very likely be left unfinished by the time a new mayor took over.
However, there is a chance the consent decree will be ready before Inauguration Day, according to Lynch. She said today that she is planning to come to Baltimore in January to provide updates “and hopefully an announcement on those efforts.”
“At this point, the ball is in the city’s court, but we are looking forward to getting a positive response from them on finalizing this consent decree and making sure that everyone in Baltimore has the constitutional policing that all citizens deserve,” she said.
That would be ideal for those who see a need for reform here, given the incoming president’s views on policing. Trump has indicated in the past that he supports stop-and-frisk policing, a practice used in cities that the Department of Justice has argued should be halted if found unconstitutional by a judge.
As The Washington Post noted, Sessions himself has expressed wariness about court-ordered police reforms in the past, including at a 2005 Senate subcommittee hearing.
Sounds like the City and the DOJ don’t really care about this. I see that SRB is going to be a ‘consultant’. Why anybody would consult with an ineffectual former mayor whose legacy is riots, foolishly paying the Gray family $6.5M, then leaving the most important outcome of it all unfinished is a real head- scratcher.
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