Mayor Pugh wants consent decree with DOJ complete before Trump takes office

Posted at 7:32 PM, Dec 21, 2016

The Department of Justice's scathing report of the Baltimore City Police Department is four months old. 

With each day that passes, pressure mounts to reach an agreement to overhaul the force.  Now, Mayor Catherine Pugh has a goal to finish the work before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in.

There has been mounting pressure to hammer out negotiations and get the consent decree finished before Trump's administration takes over next month.  Pugh said things are going smoothly.

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"It wasn’t until about a week and a half ago, if not sooner, that we got all of the 21 different areas that they want to negotiate on,” she said.  “My understanding is that we've gotten through about 50 percent of that, our goal is to get through them as quickly as possible, and our goal is to get it done before the administration takes hold."

She says city lawyers and the Department of Justice are in talks daily to come to an agreement, however, it's important to avoid being ordered to do expensive services and reforms that have already been put in place at the Police Department, like body cameras and diversity training.

Reaching a deal like this can often take longer than a year, but Pugh is optimistic it can be wrapped up in the next few weeks.

"I am accelerating that process, to say move as rapidly as possible."

Since Trump's victory, city leaders and activists have expressed concerns the new President's administration will be less interested in cracking down on the police misconduct then the administration of President Obama.  Because of that, there's been increased pressure to sign the binding legal document.

The Justice Department has been negotiating with the city since the 163-page critical report was released back in August.  The document detailed how Baltimore officers routinely use excessive force and violate people’s rights, especially in poorer areas of charm city.  The consent decree will basically create a legally binding agreement between Baltimore and the feds, a roadmap of the changes that will happen and how it will be done.

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"It's good for both parties because it sets forth the framework of what the city has to do, it sets forth the benchmarks the city has to meet," United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

Lynch said she's hopeful they can get it done and reach a plan soon.

"At this point the ball's in the city's court,” she said.  “But we are looking forward to getting a positive response from them on finalizing this consent decree and making sure everyone in Baltimore has the constitutional policing that all citizens deserve."

Lynch said she will be back in Baltimore early next month to give an update on the progress of the negotiations, and hopefully will have an announcement.

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