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Congressional delegation seeks update on DOJ consent decree

Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 7, 2015, before the Senate subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing to examine the proposed budget estimates for fiscal year 2016 for the Justice Department. Lynch said she’ll decide soon whether the Justice Department will undertake a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore police department.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Baltimore’s congressional delegation has sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General inquiring into the status of the Department of Justice consent decree negotiations with the city, citing growing concern from the community about the delayed agreement.

A consent decree was initially expected by Nov. 1 but the parties announced in late October that negotiations were ongoing.

“It is absolutely imperative that decisive, steady, urgent progress toward crafting a meaningful consent decree be made a top priority by all involved,” states the letter, which was sent Monday to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Mayor-elect Catherine Pugh as well as Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The consent decree will follow a 14-month patterns and practices investigation by the Department of Justice into the Baltimore Police Department. The investigation found routine uses of excessive force and disproportionate stops of black residents in poorer neighborhoods, documented in a 165-page findings report.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen, and Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes requested an update on the status of the consent decree and “strongly encouraged” the parties to complete a meaningful agreement.

“We appreciate the significant time and energy required to prepare for the transition of a mayoral administration, but it is absolutely necessary that the consent decree be a top priority for all at this crucial time,” the letter said. “The safety of our community is at stake.”

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