Jeff Sessions' parting blow ensures DOJ can't curtail local and state civil rights violations
Beginning in 2015, following the horrific death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into police patterns and practices in Baltimore. Among other things, DOJ discovered that the police routinely conducted unconstitutional stops and searches, effectively targeted African-Americans, and used excessive force.
DOJ and Baltimore officials finalized a 227-page agreement around reforms to the police department and its practices just before President Barack Obama left office. Although the incoming administration fought proceedings, Judge James K. Bredar of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland made it official, issuing it as an order in April 2017.
The decree specifies how the city of Baltimore and its police department must resolve the systemic problems that led to Gray’s death, among other abuses, going forward. The consent decree—as is typical—called for the parties to agree on an independent federal monitor to assess compliance. Violations go to Judge Bredar, not DOJ. (Thank God.) Full compliance means total reform.
Outgoing Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have nixed—did try to nix—consent decrees like that DOJ entered into with Baltimore (see also Chicago). In the absence of the ability to withdraw decrees, Sessions has opposed forming new ones. Just before he left office, he issued a memo making consent decrees much, much more difficult.