Judge OK’s Baltimore Reform Plan Over DOJ Objection

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Baltimore protest against police shootings, 2014. Photo by Bruce Emmerling via Flickr

A federal judge today approved the police reform agreement between the Obama Department of Justice and Baltimore even after being told that the Trump DOJ has “grave concerns” about it, the Baltimore Sun reports. Yesterday, John Gore of the DOJ Civil Rights Division said officials there are no longer sure the consent decree supports public safety, citing recent increases in city crime. Gore asked U.S. District Judge James Bredar to “hold off” on signing the decree for at least 30 days so the Trump administration could “analyze it and re-engage with the city if necessary.” Bredar said today that, “The case is no longer in a phase where any party is unilaterally entitled to reconsider the terms of the settlement; the parties are bound to each other by their prior agreement.”

At a hearing yesterday, Baltimore residents, advocates and community organizers asked Bredar to approve the deal without delay. Many said the consent decree isn’t perfect, but represented a step in the right direction. Acting city solicitor David Ralph said the agreement was crafted with deep input from the community, careful consideration of public safety and measures to better train and equip police officers. “We don’t believe delay is necessary,” Ralph said. “We would like to move forward.” Gore said the Justice Department “certainly agrees that there is a critical need for police reform” in Baltimore, but it also believes reform is “really the job of local officials,” and is skeptical of agreements across the country that mandate federal oversight of local law enforcement. The differing opinions voiced during a nearly four-hour hearing illustrated the sharp divide between the Obama and Trump administrations when it comes to police reform. Bredar was in the perhaps unprecedented position of having to consider a federal consent decree on policing that is not fully supported by the Justice Department, policing experts said.


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