Sessions orders sweeping review of police reform agreements

The Department of Justice may cancel agreements with the Chicago and Baltimore Police Departments that would force them to better protect civil rights.

Screen shot: A.G. Jeff Sessions on Fox News

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2017 — Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a widespread review of police reform investigations launched by the Justice Department. The review comes as Sessions looks for ways to cut back on federal oversight of local law enforcement.

The order was issued in a two-page memo, opening up a review of actions by the Obama administration which forced local law enforcement officials to change some policies. These include the use of deadly force and the ways law enforcement deals with minority communities.

The Sessions memo comes just moments after DOJ civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement with the Baltimore Police Department.

“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,” Justice officials said in their filing. “The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”

Since the beginning of the Obama presidency, the Department of Justice opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies. Civil rights activists are fearful that Sessions’ memo could imperil agreements that have not been finalized, including an agreement with the Chicago Police Department.

The agreement with the Baltimore Police Department was reached following the Freddie Gray incident in 2015. It calls for changes in training officers on how to resolve conflicts without force. The department found in a report that the Baltimore police conducted stops, searches and arrests that violated the Constitution.

Sessions wrote on Monday that “the misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement agencies perform in keeping American communities safe.” National Urban League president Marc Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, said that if Sessions’ goal is to reduce violent crime, then he’s going about it the wrong way.

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