AG Sessions orders review of consent decrees imposed on city police

In a legal motion filed Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice requested it be granted 90 days to review consent decrees negotiated between the Obama Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and over 20 police departments nationwide.

A critic of federal overreach over fear it weakens policing, Sessions has often questioned the merit of consent decrees, writing in the two-page memo Justice Department attorneys filed Monday:

“Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing.  It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.” 

 “The Attorney General and the new leadership in the Department are actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public.”

“The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”

Contained in a court order, a consent decree is a brokered agreement among two parties to resolve a dispute.  In legal terms, the court orders relief against the defendant and agrees to maintain jurisdiction over the case to certify the agreement is carried out.

Most often applied against individuals or institutions related to cases involving anti-trust laws, schooling systems and urban police departments, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ review applies to the over 20 police departments currently under Justice Department evaluation.

Motivated by a spate of officer-related shootings between 2009 and 2017, the Obama administration investigated nearly two dozen police departments across the country.  Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Ferguson, Mo., and Cleveland were among those under consent decree.

In his wholesale review, Sessions has instructed his to top deputies to review each case; however, any proposed changes must be approved by a federal judge.

The memo informing the public about the coming review of consent decrees was released hours after the Justice Department asked a federal judge to delay an upcoming hearing over an accord the Obama administration had concluded with the Baltimore Police Department.


[Washington Post] [Photo courtesy AP via ABC Chicago]