Cum­mings hosts town hall ses­sion on Jus­tice Depart­ment’s re­port

Con­gress­man seeks pub­lic sup­port, in­volve­ment in Po­lice Depart­ment re­form

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Jes­sica An­der­son The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. jkan­der­son@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jan­ders5

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.”

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN PHO­TOS

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.”

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