Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday instructed Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to review the agency’s reform agreements with all police forces nationwide.
“The Department will use its resources to effectively promote a peaceful and lawful society, where the civil rights of all persons are valued and protected,” he said in a two-page memo that was first reported on by the Washington Post.
“The Deputy Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General are hereby directed to immediately review all Department activities — including collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees, and task force participation — in order to ensure that they fully and effectively promote the principles outlined above.”
Sessions said the review is necessary for ensuring no reform agreements undermine the Trump administration’s goals of promoting police officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.
Monday’s memo announcing that Session’s two top deputies will review reform pacts between the DOJ’s civil rights division and local police departments raises questions about which deals will remain in place.
The DOJ has opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and has been enforcing 14 consent decrees, along with other agreements, since 2009, according to the Post.
The Post said Sessions’ memo was released not long before the DOJ’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement until at least late June.
The deal, which is known as a consent decree, was announced between the DOJ and the Baltimore police department just days before President Trump entered office in January.
“The Attorney General and the new leadership in the Department are actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public,” DOJ officials said in Monday’s filing.
“The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”
Monday’s filing in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland asks for the DOJ to receive 90 additional days to review the agency’s agreement with the Baltimore police department.
The DOJ’s existing reform agreement with the city’s law enforcement calls for changes including training for officers on how to resolve conflicts without using force.
Vanita Gupta, the former head of the DOJ’s civil rights division, accused Baltimore’s police department of unconstitutional and discriminatory practices in August 2016 after a year-long investigation.
The probe was launched after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died after suffering injuries while in police custody in April 2015.
Gray’s death triggered riots in Baltimore and sparked national debate over the relationship between minority communities and law enforcement officials.