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scales of justice
Published: 07 April 2017

Baltimore — The NAACP issued a letter to Attorney General Sessions questioning the legality of announced attempts to modify consent decrees between the Department of Justice and a number of municipalities across the country and their police departments.  The organization is prepared to pursue litigation to challenge attempted modifications.

Yesterday’s letter to Attorney General Sessions urges DOJ to support the policing reform efforts reflected in the consent decrees: “It is not enough, we submit, that the current administration might have chosen not to include certain provisions in the consent decrees or not to have instituted a pattern or practice investigation in the first instance.  The investigations have been conducted, the facts have been found, and the agreed-upon remedies are being implemented.  The current leadership of the Department of Justice should support the meaningful progress that has been made in reforming policing practices in these jurisdictions rather than deliberately impeding that progress.”

The letter goes on to state: “[S]hould the Department of Justice seek changes to the terms of existing policing consent decrees, it would be required to justify the changes based on something more than a shift in priorities.  It would have to demonstrate a significant change in the facts or the law.  Based on the justifications put forth by the Department thus far in its public statements on the subject, we doubt that the Department could satisfy this test.”  The letter promises NAACP opposition to any changes to the consent decrees that fail to satisfy governing legal standards.   

Currently, the Department of Justice is party to 14 consent decrees with municipalities and law enforcement agencies regarding their policing practices.  This week, after the Attorney General ordered a review of all policing consent decrees entered by the Department of Justice across the nation, the Department of Justice unsuccessfully sought to postpone a hearing on its proposed consent decree with the city of Baltimore.

“The Attorney General’s attempts to re-litigate or eliminate policing reforms designed to address systemic misconduct represents a morally bankrupt step that could have disastrous results regarding the protection of Black lives,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks.

“The NAACP is prepared for protests in the streets and action in both the courts of law and the court of public opinion against any attempt by the Attorney General to normalize race-based misconduct by law enforcement officers,” he added.

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