Pressure Mounts in Baltimore to Complete Police Consent Decree Before Trump Takes Office

Advocates says Mayor Catherine Pugh needs to complete the agreement with the Department of Justice to ensure police reform efforts continue

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Story Transcript

TAYA GRAHAM: In Baltimore there’s particular concern about anticipated changes in the Department of Justice. That’s because the DOJ issued a scathing report on the Baltimore City Police Department earlier this year — an analysis that outlined unconstitutional and racist tactics which give reformers hope change would finally occur…

VANITA GUPTA: BPD engages in a pattern or practice of making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African-Americans.

TAYA GRAHAM: Particularly since Baltimore must enter into what’s known as a Consent Decree with the DOJ — an agreement to reform policing with specific stipulations tied to metrics — but that hope has turned to fear. At City Hall last week, questions about when the Consent Decree would be done were met with vague answers.

REPORTER: Mayor, what’s the status of the Consent Decree and when do you plan on signing it for the Police Department and the DOJ, given the–

CATHERINE PUGH: How about I get one first?

REPORTER: Oh, you haven’t received it yet?

CATHERINE PUGH: Absolutely not. We have… you know, they’re in negotiations.

TAYA GRAHAM: Prompting concerns the agreement would not be signed until after Trump takes office, Mayor Pugh’s statement came shortly before current Attorney General Loretta Lynch remarked that the ball was in the City’s court. Sherrilyn Ifill, Head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, says timing of the Consent Decree is critical.

SHERRILYN IFILL: We are about to change the Federal government. That Decree has to be with the Federal Judge before January 19th.

AUDIENCE: (applause)

SHERRILYN IFILL: Has to. Once it’s with the Federal Judge… once it’s with the Federal Judge, the President’s new Justice Department can’t touch it.

TAYA GRAHAM: That’s because Trump’s pick to head the DOJ, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has come under fire for a 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants and hostility to the protection of civil rights. Advocates for reform are also concerned about Trump’s promise to support aggressive policing tactics like stop-and-frisk.

DAVID ROCAH: Trump campaigned on a platform of overt hostility towards the broad movement for reform of policing that has been happening in this country for several years now.

TAYA GRAHAM: Councilman Brandon Scott, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee, says it’s up to local governments to fight back.

BRANDON SCOTT I mean, he can say what he wants but at the local level we will have to fight that. We know that stop-and-frisk doesn’t work in Baltimore — we’ve been sued for it. So, this is not New York, so no matter what, Mr. President-elect Trump or Mr. Giuliani, if he puts him into some cabinet and says, we know that many cities are going to fight that because it simply does not work and it violates people’s rights.

TAYA GRAHAM: It’s an on-going battle to keep the police reform going forward, despite what many expect to be an administration hostile to the entire idea. This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

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