Civil rights groups alarmed over retreat on police reforms

The Justice Department on Monday filed a motion with a judge seeking a delay before putting in place a consent decree that would mandate reforms.

Consent decrees, which are enforceable by the courts, were put in place by the Obama Justice Department in such racially fraught cities as Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson likewise said they remain committed to reforms despite Sessions' order.

Law Director Greg Hicks doesn't think Sessions's memo looking to slow or stop federal oversight of local police departments will impact the deal Warren has already reached with the Department of Justice. After combing through crime data of America's 35 largest cities going back to 1985, the Journal noted that four of them - Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Memphis - had rates of violent crime last year that either approached or exceeded records set more than 25 years ago.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama and negotiated the Baltimore consent decree, told the New York Times it was "unclear" whether Sessions could withdraw from that agreement.

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After counsel for the city and the Justice Department are given an opportunity to speak, members of the public will be given three minutes each to make their statements, in the order they signed up. The Justice Department has started a broad review of federal agreements that were meant to overhaul troubled police departments.

Civil rights advocates fear Sessions is weighing what an Obama civil rights official called "an alarming retreat away from ensuring that police departments engage in constitutional policing".

"When they used force, 75 percent of the time it was against someone in a mental health crisis or drug and alcohol crisis", said Jenny Durkan, the former Seattle U.S. attorney who pressed for the consent decree. The "collaborative reform initiative" by the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is expected to wrap up this summer with a list of recommendations.

"Right now, the handwritten reports that are transported via horse and buggy to our records management are entered manually, and the time it takes to get them available to our detectives is about six weeks", Davis said.

Sessions is unable to unilaterally roll back existing consent decrees - doing so would require the approval of a federal judge - but his memo may jeopardize police reforms in Chicago and Baltimore, where agreements with the federal government are still pending.

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In New Orleans, the man appointed to oversee the reforms of that city's police department said the agreement there still stands.

In the past, Sessions has expressed concern that federal scrutiny of local police departments could have a chilling effect on law enforcement activity and morale.

Sessions made public Monday his intentions to review all consent decree agreements between local police departments and the federal government, a favorite tool of the Obama administration to push reform.

Slager is charged with murder in state court and a civil rights violation in federal court in connection with Scott's death, which was captured on video.

Pruitt also said that any review could further delay full implementation of Ferguson's consent decree.

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"We will continue to pursue outcomes that both protect the civil rights of all community members and preserve the safety of law enforcement officers", said Kevin Sonoff, public affairs officer for the OR office. Would Baltimore be in a position to be able to afford a consent decree?

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