The Justice Department is pushing in the waning days of the Obama administration to cement major police reform agreements in Baltimore and Chicago. DOJ is mindful that President-elect Donald Trump and his chosen attorney general are far less likely to impose change on local law enforcement when they take over, the Washington Post reports. Ending discriminatory and heavy-handed police practices has been a hallmark under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and the “pattern-or-practice” investigations of the Baltimore and Chicago police departments are cornerstones of her legacy.
With little over a month before Lynch will leave office, time is running out for her to secure legal agreements to guarantee reforms. Yesterday, Lynch said she would go to Baltimore next month in the hope of announcing a deal even though negotiations with the city are ongoing. Her statement was a bid to put pressure on Baltimore to sign a consent decree and to do it soon. Former Justice Department officials and civil rights activists say that for there to be true change in Chicago and Baltimore, it is essential that officials in those cities at least agree to a reform framework by Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. In Baltimore, there exists an agreement in principle; in Chicago, there does not. If the agreements are not in place before the start of Trump’s presidency, said Jonathan Smith, formerly of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, it seems unlikely that wide-scale reform spurred by the Justice Department will be enacted.