April 7 (UPI) — A federal judge on Friday ratified a consent decree that orders sweeping reforms of the Baltimore Police Department — a measure submitted at the end of former President Barack Obama‘s administration.
In a four-hour hearing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar heard from Baltimore residents and community organizers, asking for approval of an agreement.
The city and the U.S. Justice Department, led at the time by Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch, agreed on the terms of the decree after a federal investigation of city police and courts found numerous examples of racial discrimination, unconstitutional actions and excessive force.
The majority of those speaking at the hearing Friday were supportive of the consent decree.
In approving the pact, Bredar dismissed a request from President Donald Trump‘s Justice Department to delay signing the agreement for at least 30 days so officials could review the deal.
“The time for negotiating the agreement is over,” Bredar wrote in his ruling. “The only question now is whether the Court needs more time to consider the proposed decree. It does not.”
The order takes effect immediately and Bredar said both the BPD and Justice Department must now deliver an implementation plan within two weeks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday he has “grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city.”
Earlier, John Gore, deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, spoke against the consent decree, saying officials were no longer assured it supports public safety.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis testified on behalf of the police force, saying, “We don’t believe a delay is necessary. We would like to move forward.”
The decree orders new restrictions on city police officers, more training, and more supervision. It also requires better technology and equipment, and enhanced civilian oversight and transparency, The Baltimore Sun reported Friday.
The reforms were sought after the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in 2015.