The Sessions memo comes just moments after DOJ civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement with the Baltimore Police Department.
The Sessions memo was made public in a court filing in Baltimore, where the Justice Department is seeking a delay for a hearing related to a proposed consent decree with the city's police department.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis summoned the media to police headquarters today to say he is disappointed by the news that the U.S. Justice Department is seeking to pause and "review" the police reform consent decree - and to make clear that his agency had no hand in it.
Pushing back the hearing at the last minute would be a "burden and inconvenience to the court, other parties, and most importantly, the public", the judge said.
Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division under Obama, said the request "is alarming and signals a retreat from the Justice Department's commitment to civil rights and public safety in Baltimore", especially because the agreement sought the input of community members, police union officials and department heads to "address serious constitutional violations that had undermined trust and public safety in the city".
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the order.
The Justice Department would have to convince either judge to sign off on any major alterations to the NOPD and Sheriff's Office consent decrees. The city's mayor and police chief said on Monday that they oppose any delay in the process.
"I believe part of what happens with this consent decree is it opens up the opportunity to get more resources", Pugh said.
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The investigation into Baltimore's police force was sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury while being transported in a police van. But the scaling back of Obama-era police investigations probably won't affect Seattle Police Department's consent decree, which grew out of a 2011 federal investigation that raised concerns about excessive use-of-force and bias policing among city officers. Civil rights advocates fear that Sessions's memo could particularly imperil the status of agreements that have yet to be finalized, such as a pending agreement with the Chicago Police Department. After such an increase in violence, it was indeed appropriate to review policing practices, but the Obama administration's penchant for presuming widespread racism within the culture of law enforcement raises the question as to both the effectiveness and legitimacy of these new policing reforms.
"We will stay the course", Jackson said Tuesday.
"What is inside of that consent decree is absolutely what we need to not only reform the police department, but gain that trust that we need in our communities", Pugh said.
Sessions has directed the deputy attorney general and associate attorney general to review all Justice Department activities, including, "existing or contemplated consent decrees".
"If the federal government is silent, it is sending a message to local police departments: do whatever you want and we will look the other way", he said.
Chicago insists it'll push ahead with reforms no matter what the Justice Department does.
MCEVERS: But this law requires that the federal government investigate patterns of unconstitutional policing.
The consent decree in Baltimore is an agreement in principle. But the consent decree is crucial to ensure the Police Department receives necessary funding to improve training and technology for officers, implement change in a timely manner, and hold leaders accountable, he said.