Published: Wed, April 12, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

Judge rejects Justice Department request to delay Baltimore police hearing


U.S. District Judge James Bredar rejected the request Wednesday, saying in his order that pushing back the hearing "at the eleventh hour" would be a "burden and inconvenience to the court, other parties, and most importantly, the public". He says those concerns "are not limited to Baltimore".

City leaders, who have vowed to reform the Baltimore PD with or without a consent decree, praised the ruling. Gore said there has been a spike in crime in Baltimore and the administration wants to make sure that the court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree, "will help rather than hinder public safety".

The Milwaukee Police Department is undergoing the voluntary "collaborative reform" process with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing.

The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. and was scheduled to wrap up at 5 p.m. If you take them at their word, the fight with Sessions will only determine whether they have a federal monitor looking over their shoulder while they do it. The city might come in and say, "OK, we've done everything we needed to do on this".

In January, Pugh and then U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the consent decree in a joint press conference.

"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.

Bredar, the federal judge, had denied the Trump administration's request to delay Thursday's public hearing.

"The primary goal of this hearing is to hear from the public; it would be especially inappropriate to grant this late request for a delay when it would be the public who were most adversely affected by a postponement", he wrote.

City officials wrote that the court "might consider granting a brief time period for the new United States administration to further review the proposed Consent Decree prior to its entry" but said Thursday's hearing does not need to be postponed.

Still, the denial is a bump in the road for Session's plans for a far-reaching review of a number of similar consent decrees between the DOJ and local law enforcement agencies.

On Tuesday, city officials told the judge in a court filing that they oppose a 90-day extension. The review was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon, and whose death roiled the city. Justice Department officials say they want to "review and assess" the agreement.

The second speaker, Monique Dixon, of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, urged Bredar to accept the consent decree and issue it as an order of the court. This case was negotiated, and the city and Justice Department came to the conclusion that this was the best thing to do.

Justice Department attorney John Gore said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is anxious about "whether it will achieve the goals of public safety and law enforcement while at the same time protecting civil rights". Sessions has criticized videos that reveal police misconduct more than the conduct itself, and has never been a fan of federal investigations into local police departments.

"In Chicago, where we spoke to hundreds of police, thousands of residents, and looked through hundreds of thousands of documents, if that does not yield a change, I think it will be incredibly disruptive", she added.

Sessions has referred to the reports on (and agreements with) Ferguson and Chicago as "anecdotal and not-so-scientifically based", although he also confessed to not having actually read them. "Still, most BPD officers work hard to provide vital services to the community". New mayor Catherine Pugh campaigned around the idea, as did almost every other major candidate, and new police commissioner Kevin Davis is a reform supporter as well.

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