WASHINGTON ― A federal judge in Baltimore on Friday approved a deal struck between the city and the Justice Department in the final days of the Obama administration to reform Baltimore’s troubled police department, denying a request from the Trump administration to delay approval of the agreement.
U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar approved the deal in an order Friday morning. Bredar’s ruling called the Justice Department’s report on patterns of unconstitutional conduct in the Baltimore Police Department “deeply troubling.” He said the consent decree was “comprehensive, detailed, and precise” and “appears to be balanced and well-calibrated to achieve the parties’ shared, jointly-stated objectives.” He concluded that the decree “is fair, adequate, and reasonable.”
A political appointee in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division told Bredar during a public hearing on Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had “grave concerns” about the deal and requested at least 30 days for the new administration to review it. Representatives of the city of Baltimore, however, wanted to move forward without delay. And Bredar said it would be “problematic” to delay the agreement.
“It would be extraordinary for the Court to permit one side to unilaterally amend an agreement already jointly reached and signed,” Bredar wrote. “Moreover, early in the Court’s review of the joint motion, but after the new administration was in office in Washington, the Government affirmed its commitment to this draft and urged the Court to sign it.”
“The time for negotiating the agreement is over,” he wrote, adding that “the problems that necessitate this consent decree are urgent.”
“Now, it is time to enter the decree and thereby require all involved to get to work on repairing the many fractures so poignantly revealed by the record,” Bredar wrote.
In a statement Friday, Sessions said that “the Department of Justice continues to fully support police reform in Baltimore,” but expressed “grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city.”
Read Sessions’ full statement below.
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. 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.
Make no mistake, Baltimore is facing a violent crime crisis.
Baltimore has seen a 22 percent increase in violent crime in just the last year. While arrests in the city fell 45 percent based on some of these ill-advised reforms, homicides rose 78 percent and shootings more than doubled. Just in 2017, we’ve seen homicides are up another 42 percent compared to this time last year. In short, the citizens of Baltimore are plagued by a rash of violent crime that shows no signs of letting up.
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.
This is a developing story and will be updated.