Lynch pushes Baltimore to overhaul police practices

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Thursday stepped up the pressure on Baltimore officials to reach a deal with the federal government to overhaul the city’s police practices. “The ball is in the city’s court” to conclude negotiations soon, she said.

Lynch, who took office in April 2015 as riots roiled Baltimore after the death of a black man in police custody, said she intends to return to Baltimore in January to give an update on efforts to reach a court-enforceable consent decree.

Her statements seemed intended to publicly push Baltimore toward a resolution and appeared to reflect a degree of disappointment in the pace of negotiations.

Though consent decrees can take months to negotiate, the federal government and Baltimore already had reached an agreement in principle by August, when the Justice Department issued a report that identified discriminatory policing practices and pervasive civil rights violations.

“We are looking forward to getting a positive response from them in finalizing this consent decree,” Lynch said.

A consent decree, filed in federal court and overseen by a monitor, often serves a road map for changes in fundamental police department practices, such as in how officers use deadly force and carry out traffic stops.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into the city police department last year, months after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was injured in a police transport van. A report in August found that Baltimore police officers routinely discriminate against blacks, repeatedly use excessive force and are not adequately held accountable for misconduct