Ferguson's federal consent decree among those AG Sessions wants to review | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson's federal consent decree among those AG Sessions wants to review

Apr 4, 2017

Updated at 2 p.m. with NAACP comment — Ferguson officials say they have not been notified by federal authorities about a potential review of the city's agreement with the Justice Department involving local police and municipal court reforms.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered all consent decrees to be reviewed, including agreements in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago.

Ferguson hasn't been contacted by the Justice Department, City Manager De'Carlon Seewood told St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday.

The city entered into a consent decree following the August 2014 death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a white officer who is no longer with the department. Under the 133-page decree, Ferguson must make major changes to how its police department is trained and operates.

Consent decrees were part of an effort by the Obama administration to build better relationships between police departments and their local communities. 

Sessions has directed the deputy attorney general and associate attorney general to review all Justice Department activities, including, "existing or contemplated consent decrees." He said he wants to make sure they follow principles in several areas such as recruiting and making sure local agencies receiving federal funding follow grant conditions and federal laws.

The New York Times reports that the agreements, 14 in total, likely cannot be undone without going through the courts.

The head of St. Louis' NAACP chapter, Adolphus Pruitt, said any Justice Department review should include communities that were investigated, but didn't enter into a consent decree.

"To say that they may have been flawed in cases where they were able to reach an agreement in cases where they found some harm — but not able to be flawed in cases where they didn't find any harm — to me seems to be biased and strategically motivated to discredit the work of the Justice Department under the Obama administration," he said.

Pruitt also said that any review could further delay full implementation of Ferguson's consent decree. At a progress hearing last month, it was noted that many of the deadlines for municipal court changes have already passed, though the city's attorney, Apollo Carey, said Ferguson and the Justice Department had made that decision so that changes could be done "the right way."

That said, Pruitt still believes the decree is  solid.

"Last I checked, the biggest disagreement about the Ferguson consent decree was not the contents nor what it was requiring for Ferguson to do. It was more of an issue of who was going to pay for it," Pruitt said.

The consent decree in Baltimore is an agreement in principle. A U.S. District Court is slated to take public comment about the proposal this week, but the Justice Department is seeking a delay in moving forward with that agreement.

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