Sessions Restricts Use of Consent Decrees to Fight Police Abuses

In a final act on his way out the door, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions signed a memorandum restricting the ability of federal law enforcement to use court agreements to enact changes in local police departments accused of civil rights violations or abuse. Sessions reportedly signed a memorandum to that effect Wednesday, before President Trump fired him and announced Matthew Whitaker as the new acting attorney general. The memorandum severely restricts so-called consent decrees, agreements that were used frequently under former President Obama to combat police abuses. Sessions had sharply criticized the use of such agreements shortly after taking office, claiming they hamper police morale. Under his memorandum, such agreements will now face three new obstacles. They’ll have to be approved by top political appointees rather than career lawyers; evidence of additional violations beyond unconstitutional activity will be required; and the agreements will have to have a specific end date.