How the Obama Justice Department used “consent decrees” as club to nationalize law enforcement

By Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, authored by then Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, gave the Obama administration (under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch) a club with which to “police the police.”

That club – in the form of “consent decrees” – was wielded to intimidate state and local government law enforcement authorities to buckle under various charges of civil rights violations.

A consent decree is an agreement or settlement that resolves a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt (in a criminal case) or liability (in a civil case).

Through court-ordered consent decrees, the Obama administration Justice Department (DOJ) has forced dozens of state and local law enforcement officials to plead guilty rather than fight a Justice Department investigation and civil or criminal complaint as well as accept to run their departments under direction of a court-ordered federal monitor.

In effect, the Obama administration found a way to nationalize any state or local law enforcement department or agency that insisted on strict enforcement of immigration laws, or exerted diligence in policing crime-ridden minority inner cities to protect law-abiding citizens against the ravages of criminal, drug-dealing gangs.

This “federalization by consent decree” of state and local law enforcement reached its peak under the direction of Thomas E. Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a self-professed La Raza “open borders radical,” Perez also served as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division from 2009-2013.

The radical hard-left of Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky view police in the United States not as a dedicated force for good willing to risk their lives daily to preserve law and order in communities across the United States, but as an “occupying force” employed by capitalistic white elites hired to attack immigrants and suppress minorities, and apply enforce social control by the discriminatory exercise of deadly force and the power to arrest and imprison.

In the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Board annual meeting held in New York City on February 11-12, 2016, George Soros proposed an annual three to five million dollar commitment for at least three years to launch a “new police reform initiative” that would include backing DOJ consent decrees aimed at improving “the impact of federal intervention to address local policing practices.”

The board book for the 2016 annual meeting in New York, leaked by DCLeaks.com, proposed a “three-pronged strategy to advance a new police reform initiative, including creating a national intermediary organization to add expertise and capacity to local campaigns, engaging with police unions, and advancing a federal police reform agenda.”[1]

On March 28, 2017, a group of lawyers, advocates, and scholars (including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach), signed a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging him to take a serious look at reform as he works with President Trump to select a new assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.  Part of the letter read:

“During the Obama administration, the [Civil Rights] Division served purely ideological ends with rigidity unmatched in other federal offices. Entrenched federal bureaucrats jettisoned precepts like equal enforcement in favor of political and racialized dogmas with a zeal that risks litigation failure and invites court sanctions,” the letter stated. “The Civil Rights Division has relegated its leadership role to political activist.”[2]

A close look at two recent case studies will affirm the truth of that point.

On December 14, 2015, PBS Frontline published a database of 68 DOJ investigations into the 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide over the past two decades, with the Obama administration clearly being “the most aggressive” in pushing for binding consent decrees, having entered 12 of the 68 consent decrees recorded in the database.[3]

PBS Frontline, sympathetic to the DOJ consent decree intervention tactic found “that most [police] departments have been investigated for allegations that officers have used excessive force against civilians.”  PBS Frontline further specified that allegations typically involve “discriminatory policing,” defined as when police officers “police one group – usually blacks or Hispanics – unfairly, such as targeting them improperly for stops and searches, false arrests, other harassment, and even excessive force.”[4]

On January 12, 2017, only eight days before President Obama left office, the DOJ signed a 227-page consent decree with the city of Baltimore[5] that ordered more supervision and training for police officers on de-escalation tactics in interactions with youths, especially with those youths suspected of having mental illnesses and those involved in protest activity.

The Baltimore Sun listed[6] the following as a small sampling of the numerous restraints on police activity that were specified as requirements of the consent decree:

·            That officers introduce themselves by name and rank and refrain from forcing people not suspected of crimes to cooperate.

·            That officers fill out forms for each stop, recording the location and race, ethnicity and age of the person stopped.

·            That a task force be appointed to study and make recommendations to improve the Civilian Review Board, which considers complaints against officers.

·            That officers receive eight hours of training each year on how to better engage the public, work with neighborhood and community groups, and interact with young people, members of the LGBT community, the homeless and the mentally ill.

·            Notification of a supervisor before an officer makes an arrest on minor charges, including obstructing, hindering or resisting an officer, disorderly conduct, failure to obey an officer, gambling, making a false statement or trespassing.

A DOJ press release described the Baltimore consent decree as focusing on creating “a pathway toward lasting reform within the Baltimore Police Department,” by establishing requirements focusing on “building community trust, creating a culture of community and problem-oriented policing, prohibiting unlawful stops and arrests, preventing discriminatory policing and excessive force, enduring public and officer safety, and enhancing officer accountability and making needed technological upgrades.” The consent decree required the appointment of an “independent monitor” tasked with reporting publicly on the Baltimore Police Department’s implementation efforts on a regular basis.[7]

The incident that led to this virtual federal takeover of the Baltimore Police Department involved the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American arrested by the Baltimore Police Department on April 12, 2015, for carrying an illegal switchblade.  Gray was handcuffed behind his back and put into a tactical hold by police before putting him in the back of the police van. While on the way to the police station, the police put Gray in leg irons after an officer determined he had become irate.  In the back of the police van, Gray was not restrained by a seat belt, which was a clear violation of police department policy.  On April 19, 2015, Gray died in the hospital, with the cause of death attributed to injuries suffered to his spinal cord.[8]

Gray’s death led to a week of violent protest, including vandalism, looting, and the burning of businesses in Baltimore, causing Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (after consultation with President Obama) to declare a state of emergency on April 28, 2015, that resulted in the deployment of up to 5,000 National Guardsmen to secure Baltimore’s streets.[9] On August 16, 2016, Aaron Klein reported in Breitbart News that leaked documents showed George Soros’ Open Society Foundations portrayed the 2015 Baltimore unrest as opening a “unique opportunity” to create “accountability for the Baltimore police, while aiding activists in reforming the city.[10] 

On July 27, 2016, prosecutors dropped all charges against the final three Baltimore police officers charged with criminal misconduct in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.  In total, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby brought criminal charges against six officers in the Freddie Gray case, with criminal charges ranging from second-degree murder, to manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.  In the end, one of the highest-profile criminal cases in Baltimore’s history ended with zero convictions.[11] An ethics complaint was filed against Mosby in June 2016 by a George Washington University professor, asking the Maryland Bar Association to disbar her because of her alleged misconduct in prosecuting six police officers in the Freddie Gray case.[12] 

One of the DOJ prosecutions that deserves national attention now is the on-going case of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona.  The case against Arpaio began with the 2007 traffic stop that resulted in the arrest of Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist who was a passenger in an automobile stopped in Cave Creek, Maricopa County.  Melendres charged that the Maricopa County sheriff’s officers were “fundamentally stopping brown-skinned people with the pretext of looking for criminals.”[13] The case developed into a class action lawsuit that caught the attention of Tom Perez. Arpaio, a target of the Obama administration for years because of his determination to enforce strictly existing immigration laws, was seen by Perez as implementing a “systematic policy” in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) that set law enforcement rules and procedures to be intentionally discriminatory to the rights of Hispanics.

On October 2, 2013, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio and his agency had relied on racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Hispanics.  Snow ordered Arpaio to make mandatory changes in MCSO office law enforcement procedures. These included requiring officers to radio the base for each traffic stop before contacting people in the vehicle, video recording of all traffic stops, increased training for and monitoring of MCSO office employees, and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping.[14]  On May 12, 2016,  Judge Snow held Arpaio in civil contempt of federal court, ruling that Arpaio and three of his aides violated the judge’s 2013 order that was meant to curtail “racial profiling” by MCSO officers.[15]  Then, on August 19, 2016, Judge Snow ruled that Arpaio needed to face prosecution for criminal contempt of court for intentional disregard of the District Court’s authority, alleging that Arpaio had disregarded Snow’s rulings by continuing MCSO police policies that involved systematic racial profiling.[16] 

Now at 84 years old, after a distinguished career that includes service in the U.S. Army from 1950-1953, service as a police officer in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, as well as working as a federal narcotics agent and the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for Arizona, Arpaio faces criminal charges that could see him convicted to six-months in jail if found guilty.

Throughout the entire case, Perez pursued Arpaio with a vengeance. On January 5, 2012, when the DOJ dropped the initial criminal case against Arpaio in favor of pursuing the civil case, the DOJ sent the author an email, explaining, “If MCSO wants to debate the facts rather than fixing the problems stated in our findings, we will do so by way of litigation.”[17]  According to information provided the author by a credible whistleblower, while the DOJ was prosecuting Arpaio from 2008 to 2010, the National Security Agency conducted electronic surveillance of the various Arizona-based federal judges on the case, as well as on Arpaio, and on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, while the DOJ attorneys under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder maintained an on-going telephone back-channel discussion with the federal judge assigned to handle the case.[18]

Largely as a result of the adverse publicity from facing criminal contempt charges, Arpaio lost his seventh bid to be elected Maricopa County Sheriff on November 8, 2016,.  The challenger, Paul Penzonee – a Democrat and a former Phoenix police sergeant who lost to Arpaio in 2012 – won 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent, running on a campaign designed to be sympathetic to Arizona’s growing Hispanic voter base.[19]

That the DOJ conspired to defeat Arpaio is suggested by the timing of his criminal indictment. In mid-October 2016, with the election approximately three weeks away, the Justice Department announced that lawyers were preparing to file criminal contempt of court charges against Arpaio for his alleged violation of Judge Stone’s orders in the Melendres case.[20] Then, on November 4, 2016, four days before the election, Politico reported that Soros had contributed two million to a Soros-funded political action committee, Maricopa Strong, to defeat Arpaio.[21]

This author is currently taking steps to bring evidence for this information before the Trump administration, U.S. Congress House and Senate judiciary committees, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, alleging the Obama administration in prosecuting Sheriff Arpaio has engaged in extensive illegal and unconstitutional surveillance undertaken by the DOJ and the National Security Agency working secretly together.

[1] Open Society Foundation, U.S. Programs Board Meeting, New York, New York, Feb. 11-12, 2016, “Update: Police Reform,” page 5, “feb 2016 usb board book-4.pdf,” at DCLeaks, http://soros.dcleaks.com.

[2] Ian Mason, “Conservaives Urge Sessions to Clear Out Obama’s Civil Rights Division,” Breitbart.com, March 28, 2017, http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/28/conservatives-urge-sessions-to-clean-out-obamas-civil-rights-division/.

[3] Sara Childress, “Inside 20 Years of Federal Police Probes,” PBS Frontline, Dec. 14, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/inside-20-years-of-federal-police-probes/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Agreement in Principle Between the United States and the City of Baltimore Regarding the Baltimore City Police Department,” eight pages, signed Aug. 9, 2016, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883376/download.  See also: “Consent Decree,” United States Court for the District of Maryland, U.S. v. Police Department of Baltimore City, Filed Jan. 12, 2017, 227 pages, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925056/download.

[6] Kevin Rector, Justin George, and Luke Broadwater, “Baltimore, Justice Department reach consent decree agreement on police reform,” Baltimore Sun, Jan. 12, 2017, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/doj-report/bs-md-ci-doj-consent-decree-20170112-story.html.

[7]  “Justice Department Reaches Agreement with City of Baltimore to Reform Police Department’s Unconstitutional Practices,” Press Release, Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, Jan. 12, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-reaches-agreement-city-baltimore-reform-police-department-s.

[8] Facts of Freddie Gray’s arrest and death are drawn from: “Freddie Gray’s death in police custody – what we know,” May 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32400497.

[9] William J. Gorta and NBC News, “Baltimore Burns: Freddie Gray Protests Turn Violent, Prompting State of Emergency,” NBC News, April 28, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32400497.

[10] Aaron Klein, “HackedSoros Memo: $650,000 to Black Lives Matter,” Breitbart.com, Aug. 16, 2016, http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/08/16/hacked-soros-memo-baltimore-riots-provide-unique-opportunity-reform-police/.

[11] Kevin Rector, “Charges dropped, Freddie Gray case concludes with zero convictions against officers,” Baltimore Sun, July 27, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-miller-pretrial-motions-20160727-story.html

[12] Alfred S. Regnery, “Regnery: Marilyn Mosby’s Disbarment Would Be a Fitting End to Her Politically-Motivated Prosecution of Baltimore Officers,” Breitbart.com, June 30, 2016, http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/06/30/regnery-marilyn-mosbys-disbarment-would-be-a-fitting-end-to-her-politically-motivated-prosecution-of-baltimore-officers/.

[13] Laura Gómez, “This man’s arrest helped bring down Joe Arpaio. Manuel Melendres speaks publicly,” AZCental.com, Dec. 26, 2016, http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/12/26/phoenix-arrest-manuel-melendres-joe-arpaio-profiling-lawsuit/95041534/.

[14] “Ortega Melendres, et. al. v. Arpaio, et.al.,” American Civil Liberties Union, updated July 20, 2016, https://www.aclu.org/cases/ortega-melendres-et-al-v-arpaio-et-al.

[15] Megan Cassidy, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt of federal court, judge rules,” AZCentral.com, May 13, 2016, http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/05/13/arpaio-contempt-federal-court-ruling/77833232/.

[16] Megan Cassidy, “Federal judge refers Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal contempt,” AZCentral.com, Aug. 19, 2016, http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2016/08/19/arpaio-criminal-contempt-decision/87587572/.

[17] Jerome R. Corsi, “Justice Department Blinks in Battle Against Sheriff Arpaio,” WND.com, Jan. 19, 2012, http://www.wnd.com/2012/01/justice-department-blinks-in-battle-against-sheriff-joe/?/.

[18] Jerome R. Corsi, “Bombshell: Obama’s NSA Illegally Spied on Sheriff Arpaio’s Prosecution,” Infowars.com, March 20, 2017, https://www.infowars.com/bombshell-obama-illegally-spied-on-sheriff-arpaios-prosecution/.

[19] Fernanda Santos, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio Loses Bid for 7th Term in Arizona,” New York Times, Nov. 9, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/us/joe-arpaio-arizona-sheriff.html.

[20] Jude Joffe-Block, “What you need to know about the criminal case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” PRI.org, Oct. 12, 2016, https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-10-12/what-you-need-know-about-criminal-case-against-sheriff-joe-arpaio.

[21] Scott Bland, “Soros spends $2 million to defeat Arpaio,” Politico.com, Nov. 4, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/george-soros-joe-arpaio-arizona-230724.