Nobody should be surprised that the new head of the Department of Justice, former Alabama Senator (and one of Donald Trump’s most rabid supporters during his ascension to the White House), Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, recently began the process of attempting to dismantle the DOJ consent decree with Baltimore.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
According to the Washington Post, Sessions has ordered the DOJ to review reform agreements (like the consent decree reached with Baltimore) across the country, “to ensure that these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime,” the Post reports.
In concert with the announcement of the review, which casts doubt upon the execution of all consent decrees nationwide, DOJ lawyers asked a federal judge to delay, at least to the end of June, an upcoming public hearing for the Baltimore consent decree. On April 5, U.S. District James Bredar rejected the DOJ’s request.
It seemed inevitable.
In a statement, David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland said, “The Trump administration’s move to put off a long-planned public hearing, where the court was going to hear directly from Baltimore’s residents about their views of the Baltimore Police Department, and the necessity of a consent decree as part of the reform process, is a slap in the face to the people of Baltimore,” Rocah stated.
As we say in West Baltimore, I don’t mean no harm, but the racist machinations of the Session’s lead U. S. Department of Justice isn’t really a slap in the face to all of the people of Baltimore. The actions of the DOJ amount to spitting in, and then slapping the collective faces of the city’s mostly Black, mostly poor residents who have had their constitutional, civil and human rights trampled upon by a Baltimore City Police Department that has run roughshod over those communities for generations, with little regard to their humanity.
Again, who is surprised that the most anti-Black, anti-poor White House since the Reagan administration is going about the methodical business of deconstructing protections for Black and poor people and fortifying the institutions of White supremacy?
But, since April of 2015 it seems brutally apparent that the onslaught against Black and poor people has been accelerated in Baltimore.
Since the day Baltimore police officers hauled the limp body of Freddie Gray into the back of that police wagon on April 12, 2015, so many of us have been witnessing what seems like a slow motion, surreal affirmation of generations of systemic oppression, which ultimately sparked the uprising shortly after Gray’s funeral on April 27, 2015. We know the rest of the tragic Freddie Gray saga; 344 homicides that year, the city’s deadliest ever and all six officers indicted in Gray’s death eventually cleared of all criminal wrongdoing.
In August of 2016, the DOJ delivered the devastating, “pattern or practice,” report, which co-signs what hundreds of thousands of mostly Black, mostly poor Baltimore residents have known for decades.
What we didn’t know, when the sordid details of systemic abuse and misconduct at the hands of the BCPD was being revealed officially, seven BCPD officers were being investigated for shaking down drug dealers and others for hundreds of thousands of dollars and bilking Baltimore taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay. The official federal indictment of those seven officers happened last month.
A few weeks ago, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh reversed a campaign promise and vetoed a city council bill to raise the city’s minimum wage incrementally to $15/hour by 2022.
Last week, two of the maintenance workers charged criminally for sexual misconduct in the Baltimore Housing Authority scandal (which garnered national headlines and was first reported in the AFRO), which alleged workers traded sex, for maintenance services to dozens of female residents at the Gilmor Homes (which subjected it’s mostly impoverished residents to deplorable, in some cases many argue, subhuman living conditions) were cleared of all criminal charges. This despite the fact, many of the women who accused those maintenance workers of sexual misconduct were paid millions of dollars in settlements connected to the allegations.
“What is the purpose and value of Black power if there are Black faces in high places in city government, yet the old systems of institutional racism remain in place and the economic conditions of Black people do not improve,?” Dayvon Love, co-founder of the grassroots think tank, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle asked in a commentary he wrote, which recently appeared in The Atlanta Black Star.
When you ask the hundreds of thousands mostly Black, mostly poor residents of Baltimore who are perpetually unprotected and imperiled, and ultimately dehumanized, the answer seems clear; so-called, “Black power,” in Baltimore is probably worth the paper the DOJ consent decree with the city is printed on.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of, AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.