With Donald Trump now at the helm of the country, everything feels like it’s changing. Locally, a federal judge is wondering if the outcome of federally required police reforms for the Baltimore Police Department will change as well.
Timothy Mygatt, an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division who helped negotiate the BPD consent decree, told U.S. District Judge James Bredar today that despite a leadership change taking place in the White House and the DOJ, the reforms will happen.
“It endures over administrations. It endures across shifting political winds,” he said of the consent decree, per the AP. “It allows there to be surety for all parties involved that there’s going to be consistency.”
In January, city and Justice Department attorneys concluded months of negotiations about the consent decree that would require a series of reforms to take place within the Baltimore Police Department. The 227-page agreement they produced outlines a holistic change to policing, including new training, community policing strategies, and processes for dealing with officer misconduct. More concretely, it will also require police to adopt new rules for the use of force, conducting searches and investigating sexual assault cases, and it calls for better tracking of data, among many other reforms.
For the agreement to take effect, Judge Bredar must sign it. Days after it was announced, he penned a letter to Mayor Catherine Pugh and DOJ attorneys with a list of questions. Per the Sun, these included queries about the specific costs of the reforms, how to resolve conflicts between the requirements and the police union contract and a clash between a stipulation that says police can’t stop suspects just because they’re in a high-crime area and a past federal court ruling that says they can.
Some outsiders, including the Ford Foundation, have offered to help with the costs of the reforms. According to the AP, Mayor Pugh also told Judge Bredar today that she has budgeted for their implementation and will ask the state for additional funds.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who will likely lead the Justice Department under Trump, expressed doubt about the effectiveness of consent decrees during his Senate confirmation hearing last month. Despite strong opposition from Democrats, he’s expected to be fully approved for the role by the end of the week.
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