What Will Happen To Consent Decrees Under President Trump?

What Will Happen To Consent Decrees Under President Trump?
How the Department of Justice uses consent decrees for reforming police departments could change under the incoming U.S. attorney general.

The term "consent decree" comes up pretty often when talking about reforming police departments.

It's a court-ordered agreement and — in this context — the federal government uses it to improve police departments.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department initiated 14 consent decrees with local law enforcement agencies. That's more than four times the number (three) under George W. Bush.

But the way the DOJ pursues and monitors consent decrees to reform police departments could change under President Donald Trump.

Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch spoke often about holding police accountable and reforming police departments. They initiated several consent decrees during the Obama administration.

After DOJ investigations — like those in Baltimore and Chicago after high-profile use-of-force cases — a city can sign a consent decree, agreeing to make suggested changes so it won't be sued.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick to head the DOJ, has called consent decrees "one of the most dangerous … exercises of raw power."

More recently, Sessions said this during his Senate hearing: "The consent decree itself is not necessarily a bad thing. ... But I think there's concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department who've done wrong and those individuals need to be prosecuted."

Consent decrees can last years, and many will be ongoing if and when Sessions is confirmed. He added that those court-ordered agreements will remain in place.