Judge denies DOJ request for delay, approves Consent Decree
BALTIMORE (WBFF) – A judge has denied the Department of Justice (DOJ) request for a 30-day delay and the Consent Decree has been approved.
It follows a public hearing held on Thursday, during which the DOJ made its second request for a delay.
In making the second request, Attorney John Gore said Attorney General Jeff Sessions had concerns about the consent decree achieving the DOJ goals of crime reduction and protecting civil rights.
The Consent Decree outlines reforms for the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and both Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis have opposed any delay.
Sessions released a statement following the decision, calling it "rushed," while stating that the DOJ is ready to work with Baltimore.
"Today, a federal court entered a consent decree that will require the court and a highly-paid monitor to govern every detail of how the Baltimore Police Department functions for the foreseeable future," said Sessions. "This decree was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office. While the Department of Justice continues to fully support police reform in Baltimore, I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city."
He added, "The mayor and police chief in Baltimore say they are committed to better policing and that there should be no delay to review this decree, but there are clear departures from many proven principles of good policing that we fear will result in more crime. The citizens of Baltimore deserve to see a real and lasting reduction in the fast-rising violent crime threatening their city. The Department of Justice stands ready to work with Baltimore to fight violent crime and improve policing in the city."
In the Memorandum and Order issued Friday Judge James Bredar wrote, “The Government's oral request for a thirty-day delay in entry of the Consent Decree is DENIED. The Joint Motion for Entry of Consent Decree is GRANTED...The court will retain jurisdiction over the case until the Consent Decree is terminated."
Calling the decree, "fair, adequate and reasonable," the order adds;
"The Court has reviewed the deeply troubling report prepared by the Department of Justice and referred to in the memorandum in support of the joint motion asking that the proposed decree be entered. Also, the Court has received public comment in both written form and in oral statements made at a public fairness hearing on April 6, 2017. No evidence has been presented to the Court, and no discovery has occurred as part of the instant litigation. Nor have Defendants admitted wrongdoing or liability. However, the strength of Plaintiff's case can be inferred from Defendants' evident cooperation in Plaintiff's investigation of Baltimore police practices and their ready embrace of a negotiated resolution of this case based upon that investigation, a resolution that is highly intrusive on the day-to-day operations of the BPD and that requires Defendants' commitment to spend millions of dollars."
Judge Bredar determined in his ruling that the proposed decree is "in the public interest," and noted that the court does not need more time to review the decree, which he called "urgent."
Baltimore City officials and the DOJ announced an agreement on the consent decree concerning reform within the BPD in January 2017.
"As a reminder we accelerated, by choice, our negotiations with the last administration to get a consent decree done before the change in Washington," Davis said in a press briefing Tuesday. "We did that intentionally because we know that a consent decree will make the BPD better, both with the crime fight and our community relationships."
The consent decree followed a DOJ investigation that began in May 2015 and found a pattern of questionable policing practices permeating throughout the department.
"With Judge Bredar's signature on the Baltimore police consent decree, the City of Baltimore will continue to move forward in reforming the Baltimore Police Department and building the bond of trust that must exist between the community and our police officers," Mayor Pugh wrote in a statement on Friday. "Our goal is a stronger police department that fights crime while it serves and protects the civil and constitutional rights of our residents. It will take a collaborative effort among our state and federal partners to achieve our ambitious goals, and I am confident in our mutual commitment to reforms and to the citizens of Baltimore."
The BPD said it was pleased by the decision, saying the decree "will support and, in fact, accelerate many needed reforms in the area of training, technology, and internal accountability systems."
[App users: CLICK HERE to read the order]