Civil rights groups reacted with alarm Tuesday, while law enforcement organizations expressed relief, after the Trump administration signaled it may back out of federal agreements reached with police departments around the U.S. to curb racial bias and excessive force.
In a memo made public this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all Justice Department "consent decrees" that force police departments to overhaul their practices, saying,
"It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies."
Consent decrees, which are enforceable by the courts, were put in place by the Obama Justice Department in such racially fraught cities as Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.
A decree worked out under the Obama administration is awaiting approval in Baltimore, which erupted in riots in 2015 over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. And an agreement is being negotiated in Chicago.
NAACP President Cornell Brooks called the move by the Trump Justice Department "somewhere between chilling and alarming."
"Consent decrees are the means by which you provide a hedge of protection, civil rights and civil liberties," Brooks said. "Why would our attorney general upend and undo that? This review and potential reversal represents a potentially catastrophic, life-or-death consequence for cities where citizens feel like they're under siege."
But James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcomed Sessions' memo as "gratifying."