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Federal lawmakers ask Trump administration to rethink Baltimore's consent decree delay

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Olivier Douliery / TNS)

Five members of Maryland's congressional delegation who represent Baltimore are asking the Justice Department to withdraw its request to delay an agreement to overhaul city police practices.

The letter comes a day after the Justice Department requested a judge agree to a three-month delay of the agreement -- negotiated by the city and the Obama administration -- so that federal officials can assess whether it squares with President Donald Trump's public safety agenda.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been critical of the consent decrees. In Baltimore's case, the agreement makes recommendations to address a scathing Justice Department report last summer that identified longstanding civil rights violations by city police, and it is supported by both City Hall and police leadership.

The letter was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen as well as Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes -- all Democrats who represent Baltimore.

"We are gravely concerned that the Justice Department will retreat from its obligation to protect the federal civil rights of the citizens of Baltimore," the letter reads. "We owe it to the dedicated professional law enforcement officers of the [Baltimore Police Department] to bring this matter to a just, prompt conclusion.

The Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation met with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh last week to discuss the city's priorities in Washington. High on that list, several participants said, was the federal commitment to the decree.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland lawmaker and No. 2 Democrat in the House said he is also concerned by the latest development.

"After meeting with Mayor Catherine Pugh last week to discuss the ways in which we can continue to support the city of Baltimore, action to institute reforms must be taken without delay," Hoyer said in a statement.

"I strongly urge the Trump administration to quickly move forward with reforms agreed upon by the Obama Administration to support the people of Baltimore, and work to improve the relationship between the community and police department," he said.

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