Judge rejects Justice Department request to delay Baltimore police hearing

In this March 31, 2016, file photo, a Baltimore Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as he stands on a street corner during a foot patrol in Baltimore

AP

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge in Baltimore has denied the Justice Department’s request to delay a public hearing scheduled for Thursday on a pending agreement to reform the Baltimore Police Department, CBS News justice reporter Paula Reid reports.

The Justice Department filed a motion earlier this week to push back the hearing until June. The department said it wanted time to review the plan and determine whether the proposal would hinder efforts to fight violent crime.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar rejected the request Wednesday, saying in his order that pushing back the hearing “at the eleventh hour” would be a “burden and inconvenience to the court, other parties, and most importantly, the public.” He says the hearing had been jointly requested by the Justice Department and the city.

The agreement, known as a consent decree, was reached in January and mandated significant reforms to the Baltimore police force. It was the result of months of negotiations between the Justice Department and Baltimore authorities and is meant to address systemic violations of constitutional rights identified in a scathing report released last year.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all Justice Department involvement with local law enforcement and requested the delay. The order signaled a major shift in the department’s emphasis on brokering consent decrees to reform police departments, most notably in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri.

On Tuesday, city officials told Bredar in a court filing that they opposed a delay of the hearing. Officials wrote that a postponement of the hearing “at this late date, would inconvenience many, and would only serve to undermine, not build, public trust in the reform process.”

Wednesday’s ruling does not guarantee that the Justice Department will enter into the agreement with the Baltimore police, but the public will now have the chance to weigh in on the reforms at an earlier date.