Public hearing on Baltimore, DOJ consent decree set to begin this morning

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Prudence Johnson urged the judge to sign the court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree.

City officials said they are prepared to proceed Thursday with the next step in the process to finalize the Baltimore police consent decree. Baltimore officials say they don't want any delays.

"Technically, the Justice Department can't just walk away from its legal obligations".

"We have been murdered, abused, oppressed, suppressed, and humiliated by the Baltimore Police Department", said Baltimore resident Alecia Dean. "I got the first computer in my vehicle in 1998", Davis said, referencing equipment he had while serving with the Prince George's County Police Department.

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The question is how to make certain this duty is carried out appropriately, and whether consent decrees are the best way to do it.

"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties", NAACP President Cornell Brooks said. He said federal oversight is needed to assure a public that has lost faith in its protectors that real reform is taking place.

"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.

Yesterday, City Paper spoke to Jill Carter, the Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Management, about the fate of Baltimore's consent decree after Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded, via signed statement, a 90-day pause to the decree on Monday. "The people that actually live here; the people that actually have experienced some type of brutality with an officer, these are the people that are asking for it, so now our Department of Justice, the new person that's running it, is going to come in and say now we're going to do a reform? Why? Why?"

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In a memo made public this week, however, Sessions ordered a review of all such consent decrees, saying the federal government should not be managing local law enforcement agencies.

City officials also wrote it "strains credulity" to believe the March 31 release of a two-page directive by Sessions "which reiterates long standing principles of federal-local law enforcement collaboration" should necessitate a delay.

Scores of Baltimore residents have taken their seats in a federal courtroom in Baltimore for the first public comment hearing on a proposed agreement to overhaul the city's police department. The Obama administration alleged some police departments, like Chicago and Baltimore, had a pattern of racial bias and police misconduct. A federal monitor would be appointed to oversee the process, reporting directly to Bredar. On Tuesday, a spokesman had said Sessions "agrees with the need for police reform" in Baltimore and that the delay would simply give the Justice Department a chance to review the consent decree further. The agreement was reached during the final days of the Obama administration.

Although Sessions has concerns about how Justice Department investigations affect morale among police officers, it's worth noting that the DOJ's extensive investigation mentioned the tough work Baltimore cops had to do under hard conditions.

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With this line of the letter, Sessions demonstrates "either ignorance of or unconcern for the painful lessons that history has taught us", Stoughton said, adding that it "suggests an incomplete and ineffective approach to addressing problems in policing".

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