Sessions orders review of federal agreements on local policing, seeks delay in Baltimore case

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Attorney General


Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for a review of Justice Department agreements with local police departments in a memo declaring that it’s not the federal government’s job to police local law enforcement.

The March 31 memo, made public on Monday, orders two top Justice Department officials to review existing or impending consent decrees, report the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and the New York Times.

“The misdeeds of individual bad actors,” the memo said, “should not impugn or undermine the legitimate or honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe.”

The Justice Department filed the memo in Baltimore federal court, along with a request for a 90-day delay so it could review a proposed consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department.

The Obama administration had investigated police practices in nearly two dozen cities and reached consent decrees to reform 14 police departments, according to the Times. Court approval would be needed to reverse consent decrees already given court approval.

Vanita Gupta, the former Justice Department official who had negotiated the Baltimore consent decree, told the New York Times that it’s unclear whether Sessions could withdraw the agreement, which has not yet received judicial approval.

Sessions’ memo, she said, “signals an alarming retreat away from ensuring that police departments engage in constitutional policing.”




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