AG Garland reverses Trump-era policy on consent decrees for police abuses

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday reversed a Trump-era policy limiting the use of consent decrees to force changes at police departments and government agencies accused of misconduct.

Why it matters: The move comes in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. It also comes “as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies,” AP notes.

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What he’s saying: “This memorandum makes clear that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with longstanding Departmental practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s career workforce,” Garland said in a statement, the Washington Post.

  • “Together, we will continue the Department’s legacy of promoting the rule of law, protecting the public, and working collaboratively with state and local governmental entities to meet those ends,” Garland added in a memo to U.S. attorneys and DOJ officials Friday.

Background: In one of his final moves as attorney general in 2018, Jeff Sessions issued a memo that restricted the ability of local U.S. attorneys to enter into consent decree settlements.

  • Several civil rights investigations during the Obama administration ended in court-approved consent decrees, including with police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, per AP.

Go deeper: Police officers’ immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

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