Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Baltimore Thursday morning to announce federally-mandated reforms for Baltimore’s police department. The consent decree was praised as going further than others, but questions remain about whether it will be enforced in the Trump era.
The consent decree is a 227-page document that lays out steps the BPD must take to change its ways. It’s the next step after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report over the summer that called out long-standing discriminatory policing practices and other unconstitutional abuses within the department.
That investigation began following the death of Freddie Gray. But the DOJ Civil Rights Division chief Vanita Gupta said it goes back further, pointing to the decree as a way to “end the legacy of Baltimore’s ‘zero tolerance’ policing.”
Officials said some of the reforms were already being implemented. In the details, there are signs of a holistic approach that goes beyond dictating to cops on the street.
With the agreement, police will have to implement new training, community policing approaches and processes for dealing with officer misconduct. It also mandates new rules on using force, searches and investigating sexual assault. The department will also have to track more data. A separate provision calls for an assessment of gaps in the city’s mental health system.
I just finished doing a first review of the DOJ consent decree with the @BaltimorePolice. It is the most far ranging consent decree yet.
— deray (@deray) January 12, 2017
The feds and city administration beat the clock to get the document done before President Obama’s term was up, so the document is now signed. Along with the details of the increased oversight of the cops, Lynch had a message she hoped would resonate 45 miles down the road in DC.
“This agreement is binding, and it will live on past this administration,” she said.
With Donald Trump set to take over as President and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions openly against the use of consent decrees, there’s doubt that will be the case. But Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sought to provide assurance that many Justice Department employees who were responsible for overseeing the law would remain in the new administration. The next step is to be approved by a federal judge. But The New York Times reports it will likely fall to the Trump administration to begin implementation steps, such as bringing in a federal monitor to oversee the changes.
It will also need local buy-in to make a lasting impact.Billy Murphy, the attorney for Freddie Gray’s family, praised it as revolutionary soon after the announcement. The city’s police union could have a big role in how the change plays out. FOP3 President Gene Ryan issued a statement saying they did not get a seat at the table to craft the document.