Statement Regarding Consent Decree Approval
For immediate release: April 7, 2017
The following can be attributed to Susan Goering, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland:
"U.S. District Judge Bredar's decision to sign the proposed consent decree resulting from the Department of Justice's investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department, and to make it an order of the court, is a tremendous victory for the residents of Baltimore, and a significant step forward in the police reform movement here. Today's development, as significant as it is, should not be seen as the end of the effort, but as a new beginning. There is enormous work to be done, both to implement the reforms that are now ordered by the court, and to address the many continuing structural barriers to police accountability, transparency, and civilian oversight in Baltimore and Maryland.
The need for public involvement, pressure, and scrutiny relating to the police reform process is greater than ever, and the public needs a seat the table during selection of the independent monitor. This is important because the monitor will be the eyes and ears of the court in the consent decree implementation process, and in the monitoring effort itself, as well as the larger political battles to come. Finally, today's court order must also be seen as a significant rebuke of the Trump Administration's ideological and fact-free hostility to police reform in general, and to DOJ and court oversight of that process in particular. Jeff Sessions's Department of Justice sought to stifle the voices of Baltimoreans by delaying yesterday's hearing. But fortunately, Judge Bredar was not having it. He moved forward with the hearing to give the court a chance to hear from the public about the necessity of the consent decree. To its credit, the City also opposed that request.
At the Court hearing yesterday, the Department announced that the new Administration has "grave concerns" about the agreement, and asked Judge Bredar to delay signing it. Again, the Court refused, noting that "[t]he Government_s recent motion can best be interpreted as a request for an additional opportunity to consider whether it wants the Court to enter the decree at all, or at least the current version of it." The judge denied them that opportunity, concluding that
The full record in this case, and especially the public statements made in writing and during the recent hearing make clear that time is of the essence. The problems that necessitate this consent decree are urgent. The parties have agreed on a detailed and reasonable approach to solving them. Now, it is time to enter the decree and thereby require all involved to get to work on repairing the many fractures so poignantly revealed by the record.
Going forward, there are at least two important lessons to be learned from the events of the last few days. First, the tremendous public pressure for reform of the Baltimore Police Department was essential in ensuring that the City did not take the Department of Justice's invitation to walk away from, or weaken, the consent decree. Second, Judge Bredar's decision reaffirms that the courts can, and in some cases will, stand as a bulwark against the Trump Administration's most lawless actions. Both are important to remember here in Baltimore, and around the country, as we move forward."