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US Judge Signs Baltimore Police Deal; Justice Department Objects

  • VOA News

FILE - Protestors stand outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray, April 21, 2015.

The U.S. attorney general is not pleased that the police department of the Atlantic coast city of Baltimore, Maryland, has decided to adhere to an agreement negotiated with the Obama administration.

While Jeff Sessions said the consent decree will make Baltimore “a less-safe city,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh disagreed, saying “I believe that it makes Baltimore safer.”

U.S. District Judge James Bredar signed the deal Friday, calling the plan “comprehensive, detailed and precise.” The Trump administration had asked Bredar to delay signing the decree to give them more time to review the plan designed to root out racist practices in Baltimore’s police department. Baltimore is 65 kilometers north of Washington.

Rampant police abuse

The consent decree was negotiated during the last days of the Obama administration after a federal investigation found rampant abuse by Baltimore police, including unlawful stops and use of excessive force against African Americans.

Consent decrees are basically contracts local police departments enter into with the U.S. Justice Department to achieve reforms under federal oversight. The contracts are usually the result of the revelation of raging corruption and rights abuses in police departments.

The Justice Department’s investigation into the Baltimore Police Department was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man who suffered a severed spine while being transported in a police van with his hands and feet shackled. Gray’s death ignited the worst rioting in Baltimore in decades.

Gray’s death in 2015 happened amid a wave of deaths of unarmed black men in the U.S. by police, prompting local protests and a national outcry.

Crime rate still high

Baltimore’s crime rate continued to soar after the riots and has not relented. In the first three months of 2017, the city had 79 homicides, compared with 56 for the same period last year.

Under the consent decree, Baltimore’s police officers will receive additional training and will be discouraged from arresting people for minor offenses like loitering and detaining someone for simply being in a high-crime area.

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