Cleveland to continue police reform efforts despite US memo

Baltimore leaders want reform say agreement is crucial

The DOJ's filing in Baltimore was disclosed on the same day the public learned of an order, by new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that all of the Department's activities are coming under a sweeping review.

The Justice Department said in its findings that it began investigating the Cleveland Police Department in March 2013 "in the wake of serious allegations" that the city "fails to identify, correct and hold officers accountable for using force in violation of the Constitution".

"Local control and local accountability are necessary for effective local policing", the memo says.

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis arrives at a news conference at the department's headquarters in Baltimore, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, to respond to the Department of Justice's request for a 90-day delay o.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday.

After counsel for the city and the Justice Department are given an opportunity to speak, members of the public will be given three minutes each to make their statements, in the order they signed up.

Once in place the federally imposed consent decree would not only be enforced by police supervisors now acting as de facto federal government bureaucrats but would be "monitored" by a district judge. "The City of Baltimore is ready to move forward to rebuild the important relationship which exists between the community and our police department". "We have a very serious problem in this country with the relationship between police and the communities they serve", Jonathan Smith, who oversaw almost two dozen investigations into police departments as head of the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, told Mother Jones in a phone interview. One resident, however, said he believed such a court-enforceable agreement "will hamper the police force". Civil rights activists are fearful that Sessions' memo could imperil agreements that have not been finalized, including an agreement with the Chicago Police Department.

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"Right now, the handwritten reports that are transported via horse and buggy to our records management are entered manually, and the time it takes to get them available to our detectives is about six weeks", Davis said. Posner, however, responds that since the program first started in the mid-1990s, the Justice Department has launched legal action against only a tiny sliver of the 18,000 police departments across the United States.

Jackson said that for all of Loomis' ballyhoo, the union has not come to the city to say it wants to dismantle large parts of the reform effort.

Local Justice Department attorneys and employees have continued to participate in the city's reform efforts, most recently helping to run two public meetings on community-oriented policing.

Since Gray's death, the homicide rate in Baltimore has continued to rise, and the city has struggled to rid the police department of corruption. Baltimore has already amassed more than $12 million to fulfill the consent decree in the next fiscal year.

Police reform advocates in Chicago, Baltimore and Cleveland are all anxious that the Trump administration will put an end to federal intervention in their cities.

Christy Lopez, who also helped to oversee police reform investigations at the DOJ under Obama, said such a drastic budget cut would be a "silent killer" of the Civil Rights Division, including its work on police reform.

"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties", said NAACP President Cornell Brooks, according to the Associated Press.

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