Sessions Orders Review of Obama-Era Police Reforms

AG signals he'll roll back agreements with departments in Ferguson, Baltimore, etc.
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
Obama-Era Police Reforms at Risk Under Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the White House on March 27.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to review reform agreements reached with troubled police departments across the country, such as those in Ferguson and Baltimore, noting "it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies." The court-enforced consent decrees reached with 14 departments following evidence of unconstitutional policing are a hallmark of the Obama administration but may not be in line with policies of the Trump administration, including that "the misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn" the work of police officers, Sessions said in a March 31 memo, per the Guardian. Sessions has previously said the decrees "diminish [officer] effectiveness" and may lead to a rise in violence.

But an official who oversaw investigations into 23 police departments tells the Washington Post that Sessions' move is "terrifying" and suggests the DOJ might not care if officers violate the Constitution. The DOJ has since asked a judge to delay a hearing on a decree in Baltimore so it can check that it matches the "directives of the President and the Attorney General." But a negotiator says the agreement—which followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and ordered new training for officers—was backed by the Baltimore police commissioner. A rep for a citizen advocacy group adds that Sessions is "telling us what's best for our citizens and our community when he has no experience, no knowledge," per the New York Times. (More Justice Department stories.)

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