December 15, 2016; Washington Post
Attorney General Loretta Lynch will go (“on spec,” as they say) to Baltimore next month with the hope of making an announcement about a consent decree between the Justice Department and the city regarding policing practices.
But the points of the agreement are still being worked out. “At this point, the ball’s in the city’s court, but we are looking forward to getting a positive response from them on finalizing this consent decree,” Lynch said. The decree will provide a measure of enforceability to holding the police department accountable—and that, she says, is key even as she prepares to leave office a few months from now possibly to make way for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s pick for attorney general.
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A report the DOJ released in August found that that Baltimore’s policing practices were racially discriminatory. City leaders at the time agreed that they would work with federal officials to make changes, but the deadline for that has come and gone, and the city administration has since changed.
It is, however a race against time in Baltimore and elsewhere—particularly in the City of Chicago, where there isn’t even an agreement “in principle” as there is in Baltimore and where the sheer size of the department argues for an investigation and report timeline approaching 18 months. As readers may remember, even when there is an agreement in principle, things can get complicated, as they did in Ferguson, prompting the Justice Department to file a lawsuit.
The likelihood of Sen. Sessions pursuing this course of police reform under a Trump administration is pretty thin, since Trump vowed to the International Association of Chiefs of Police that he favors keeping the federal government out of local law enforcement’s business. But, as has been noted in relation to HUD under Ben Carson, there’s always the chance that the Justice Department will continue to advance with all due speed on the course already set, even without Lynch at the helm—at least for a while.—Ruth McCambridge