The U.S. Department of Justice has moved to sharply curtail federal authority aimed at curtailing abuse and civil rights violations at local police departments across the country by directing U.S. attorneys to limit the use of consent decrees and settlement agreements.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in one of his final acts before President Donald Trump ousted him, said the Justice Department could investigate alleged legal violations but that “special caution” was required before resolving any disputes with states or local entities, the department said late Thursday.
Sessions has long opposed consent decrees between the Justice Department and police departments in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore to institute reforms, which were heavily utilized in the Obama administration, and sought to delay or overturn them.


In the memo dated Wednesday and released late Thursday Sessions said the new requirements would include limitations on how long a consent decree could last and prohibitions against their use “to achieve general policy goals,” among other curbs.
Agreements must also be reviewed by senior Justice Department officials, he wrote.

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