Cases are investigated and enforced by lawyers in the Justice Department’s elite “special litigation section.” Typically, the process takes years and compels police to spend tens of millions of dollars on training, equipment and oversight. Usually, a federal judge appoints a special monitor to oversee these changes.
Sessions, previously the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, set about to change the policy when Trump tapped him as attorney general in 2017. The primary problem, he said in a recent interview, is not the police, but violent crime.
“One of the most radical, unjustifiable policies I’ve observed in my whole adult life is this attack on police,” Sessions said. “You have to be careful before you start savaging police departments. Recruiting will go down. People will retire early. Good officers will leave, and then you get caught in a negative spiral that leads to dangerous, dangerous outcomes.”
Sessions said he was especially troubled by a consent decree that called for Baltimore police to stop abusing city residents, a document created in the Obama administration’s final days. Sessions sought to scale back the decree, calling it too broad and restrictive. A federal judge said it was too late, and the decree went into effect.
A court-appointed monitoring team said in a report Wednesday that although Baltimore had overhauled many of the policies faulted by investigators, “these reforms have not yet translated into widespread changes in officer conduct,” and that the city’s recordkeeping was too shoddy to know whether it was working.