Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled a major break from the Obama administration on Monday when he released a memo saying that the Department of Justice would review its agreements with troubled local police departments.

Many shared harrowing stories of police abuse to make clear how necessary such reforms are.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the order.

Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said the delay would have allowed the DOJ to review the current draft of the consent decree to "ensure that the best result is achieved for the people of the city and ensure that the BPD can carry out its mission of fostering trust with community members, safeguarding life and property, and promoting public safety through enforcing the law in a fair and impartial manner".

The Justice Department opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct in the Baltimore Police Department in 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in a police transport wagon, plunged the city into civil unrest. The proposed consent decree between Baltimore and the federal government was reached in the final days of the Obama administration in early January.

In appeals this week to the judge, the Justice Department lawyers under the Trump administration have asked for time to assess the plan as part of a broader review of federal decrees across the country as a means of effecting local changes and crime-fighting. Recommendations included enhancing training efforts, increasing accountability and forbidding officers from stopping residents simply because they are in high-crime areas.

The hearing will be held at U.S. District Court in Baltimore, 101 West Lombard St., beginning at 9:30 a.m. It would then be up to him to make sure the parties abide by it.

At Thursday's hearing, the first speaker, Alecia Dean, began with a statement: "Indeed, justice delayed is justice denied", she said.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has the authority to investigate whether police departments have a pattern of excessive force and racial bias. Bredar did not indicate when he would decide on the plan.

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Activists and civil rights groups criticized the Department of Justice's (DOJ) pause on police reform, calling the move "alarming" Tuesday.

The attorney general's two-page memo also took aim at "existing or contemplated consent decrees" between the federal government and local law enforcement agencies, setting the stage for an examination of numerous agreements and ongoing deliberations set in place by the Trump administration's predecessors.

"Non-white residents feel distrustful, attacked, bullied, defensive, scared, scarred and singled out", said Shantay Guy, a community mediator.

There was also testimony from two mothers whose sons were killed in incidents with police. "We are exhausted of burying our children".

Several speakers denounced racist and discriminatory policing affecting black residents in Baltimore.

Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore's police union, has complained that the union wasn't involved enough in the negotiations, and he supported the Justice Department's request to delay the proceedings.

One by one, ordinary citizens, some angry, others tearful, many skeptical, had three minutes to address a judge who might help shape how this city beset by crime and corruption allegations is policed in the years to come.

Gupta said that "the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn" the work police officers perform "in keeping American communities safe".


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