Cummings hosts town hall session on Justice Department’s report
Congressman seeks public support, involvement in Police Department reform
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said Wednesday that the Justice Department report on the Baltimore Police Department, and the reforms now being negotiated by federal officials and the city, provide a rare opportunity to address some of the city’s most challenging problems.
“I don’t want my children’s children’s children to have to fight the same fights,” the Baltimore Democrat told the more than 200 who crowded Westminster Hall to discuss the report.
“All of us” should want change, Cummings said, so no one experiences the mistreatment described in the report. “I’m begging you to work with this process.”
Cummings; Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and Donald Tobin, dean of the University of Maryland School of Law, led the discussion.
In the blistering report issued last month, the Justice Department concluded that Baltimore police routinely violated the civil and constitutional rights of the city’s residents.
Justice Department investigators accused officers of using undue force, “I don’t want my children’s children’s children to have to fight the same fights,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told the gathering Wednesday night at Westminster Hall. discriminating against African-Americans, mishandling sexual assault cases, using Tasers excessively and without justification, and failing to meaningfully investigate complaints of police misconduct.
Wednesday’s meeting was one of the events at which the public can comment on policing in Baltimore while federal and city officials negotiate court-enforceable reforms.
Ken Ward, 45, said he felt compelled to attend because the problems outlined in the report should concern all city residents, and Americans.
“You have a report that says what Baltimore residents have known for 50 years,” the Baltimore man said.
He said many residents are regularly harassed by police.
“I hope to see change” in the way officers are recruited, trained, disciplined and terminated, Ward said. One specific change he wants: more officers who live in the city.
“I think that this report is a wake-up call to the mayor, the City Council” and police leadership, he said.
Cummings said police need the cooperation of citizens to help solve crime, and residents need the police to help protect them. But there must be trust to make those relationships work.
Outside the meeting, about 20 people continued a weekly protest for Tyrone West. West, 44, died in a confrontation with police in 2013 after he was pulled over in Northeast Baltimore.
No officers were charged in his death. His family has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against officers from the city and Morgan State University.
“This is something that happens over and over again,” West’s sister, Tawanda Jones, said over a megaphone. “It’s not stopping with my brother.”
Members of the public had the opportunity to speak during the town hall meeting. “I hope to see change,” says Ken Ward, adding that the Justice Department report “says what Baltimore residents have known for 50 years.”