Published: Sun, April 09, 2017
USA | By Angel Wallace

Baltimore officials to judge: Don't delay police overhaul

Baltimore officials to judge: Don't delay police overhaul

On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected a Justice Department request to delay Thursday's hearing.

The Justice Department on Monday asked the judge overseeing the plan, called a consent decree, to postpone for 90 days a hearing scheduled for Thursday. In a city that became emblematic of police abuse, excessive force and callous treatment of young black men, Baltimore's mayor and commissioner say they are eager and ready to change not only the culture of law enforcement, but the practice.

After a Washington Post investigation revealed that D.C. police had fatally shot more people per capita in the 1990s than officers in any other large municipal police department in the country, the U.S. Justice Department got involved, forging an agreement in 2001 that required the district to undertake certain reforms. That left city leaders stunned, and pledging to carry out reforms as best they can.

In Baltimore, the homicide rate began to climb after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody prompted civil unrest in 2015.

"It's shameful and frankly quite ridiculous that they sought to delay the implementation of this decree", said David Rocha of the ACLU. But Gore said the Trump Justice Department wanted more time to see if there "may be better ways" to bring about reform. He also noted that the Justice Department had not offered any evidence that holding the hearing as scheduled would harm its interests. The Justice Department wants the judge to delay signing the agreement.

The DOJ's request is "untimely" and "inappropriate", said U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar in a motion filed today.

Gupta told BuzzFeed News that Sessions' remarks "pit civil rights against crime fighting" and expressed her concern about Baltimore and Chicago - where the negotiations between police and DOJ are ongoing. Hundreds of people are expected to testify, and other judges had cleared their dockets to accommodate the widely-publicized hearing.

The two parties spoke at the beginning of a public hearing, before city residents and representatives of local civil rights organizations and community groups began voicing their thoughts on the proposed consent decree.

"The primary objective 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. Of the Justice Department's request for a continuance, Ifill said, "If you read (the DOJ's) motion, it's all about how they want to help the police".

The stand represents the start of what appears to be a retreat by the Trump administration from the federal consent decrees that have been put in place in several USA cities in recent years to root out racism, excessive force and other abuses against minorities.

Ralph said the department is undergoing many changes in light of the findings, including adding the use of police body cameras and devising new approaches to address mental health challenges among residents that police encounter.

The Justice Department's request to postpone the hearing was met with fierce opposition from city officials, including Mayor Catherine Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who both vowed that they will press on with police reform regardless of what happens with the consent decree. A binding agreement with the court, he said, would ensure that crucial reforms to the department, such as technology updates, increased resources and expanded training, can be implemented quickly and efficiently.

Like this: