In a last minute act, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions drastically limited the ability of federal officials to use court-enforced agreements to overhaul police departments accused of abuses and civil rights violations.
Mr. Sessions signed a memorandum on Wednesday before President Trump fired him, drastically reducing the use of consent decrees, court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governments.
Sessions signaled he would pull back on the use of these deals soon after he took office when he ordered a review of the existing consent decrees, including with police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Mo.
Mr. Sessions imposed new requirements for the agreements. The evidence of violations laid out must go beyond unconstitutional behavior. Top political appointees must sign off on the deals, and the deals must have a time limit, rather than being in place until police or other law enforcement agencies have shown improvement.
Under Mr. Sessions, the department dropped investigations into the police in Chicago and Louisiana.
Last month Sessions opposed an agreement between Chicago Police and the Illinois attorney general established after a Justice Department report found rampant use of excessive force toward Black and Latino people. The Justice Department said the deal placed too many restrictions on Chicago’s police superintendent.