The Justice Department is moving to review agreements between the federal government and embattled police departments in more than a dozen cities. The agreements, which cover major cities such as Chicago and Baltimore, are meant to address decades of frayed relations between officers and the communities they ostensibly serve after high-profile incidents of police violence.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the comprehensive review of the agreements to overhaul local police departments in a two-page memo first published by The Washington Post on Monday night. His tone indicated profound skepticism about the pacts.
“The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe,” Sessions wrote.
The Obama-era DOJ negotiated so-called consent decrees with 14 cities, according to The New York Times.
The attorney general previously indicated he would “pull back” on these reforms. Sessions had also criticized what he called the DOJ’s “anecdotal” conclusions that both the Chicago and Baltimore police departments systematically violated citizens’ constitutional rights—though he also admitted that he had not actually read the reports about the two cities.
As part of the pushback, the Justice Department went to court on Monday to ask for a 90-day delay in implementing plans to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department, which was thrust into the national spotlight after the death of Freddie Gray.
Local officials don’t favor Sessions’ efforts to delay the reforms that police, local, and federal officials spent months crafting. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told the Times on Monday that the city would “strongly oppose any delay in moving forward.”
Ray Kelly, a co-director of the advocacy group No Boundaries Coalition (and not the former head of the NYPD), said the agreements have already been “negotiated by the affected parties.”
“Now we have an outside entity telling us what’s best for our citizens and our community when he has no experience, no knowledge,” Kelly said.
Or, to put it in even simpler terms: Attorney General Sessions should stay in his lane.