West Bal­ti­more ad­vo­cacy group pushes civil­ian over­sight of­fice

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Yvonne Wenger ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

A West Bal­ti­more ad­vo­cacy group is call­ing on the Po­lice Depart­ment to cre­ate an ac­count­abil­ity of­fice staffed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors and lawyers to look into claims of con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions.

The No Bound­aries Coali­tion out­lined its ef­forts to force over­sight on the Po­lice Depart­ment to mem­bers of the City Coun­cil this week, after the scathing U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­cently re­vealed a pat­tern of un­law­ful prac­tices, in­clud­ing use of ex­ces­sive force and ha­rass­ment of pro­test­ers.

“The cur­rent struc­tures for ac­count­abil­ity aren’t work­ing,” said Rebecca Na­gle, one of the coali­tion lead­ers.

“This is a gen­er­a­tional mo­ment for Bal­ti­more City,” Na­gle told mem­bers of the City Coun­cil at its weekly lun­cheon Monday. “If we don’t get rad­i­cal re­form for the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, we will be in the same cri­sis we’re in cur­rently, five years from now, 10 years from now.”

The coali­tion plans to out­line the full de­tails of the “Peo­ple’s De­cree of Cen­tral West Bal­ti­more” at a news con­fer­ence at 9 a.m. Thurs­day at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Sand­town-Winch­ester.

The group is look­ing for elected of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity mem­bers to sign on to the plan to present to of­fi­cials, as the Jus­tice Depart­ment de­vel­ops a con­sent de­cree with the Po­lice Depart­ment that would en­act sweep­ing re­forms. The con­sent de­cree, which fol­lows the Au­gust re­port, is ex­pected by Novem­ber.

Na­gle said the Of­fice of Po­lice Ac­count­abil­ity would in­ves­ti­gate a va­ri­ety of mat­ters, such as in­stances when the same per­son is stopped by po­lice at least twice in a six-month pe­riod or when a per­son al­leges ev­i­dence is de­stroyed or planted. Its staff would be newly hired, in­clud­ing no one who pre­vi­ously worked for the Po­lice Depart­ment.

The of­fice would have an op­er­at­ing bud­get of at least $500,000 and re­port to a board made up of com­mu­nity mem­bers, the po­lice com­mis­sioner, a may­oral ap­pointee and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the po­lice union.

The “Peo­ple’s De­cree” was de­vel­oped after ex­ten­sive com­mu­nity out­reach and con­sul­ta­tions with le­gal ex­perts and in­cor­po­rates prob­lems un­cov­ered in the Jus­tice Depart­ment re­port, Na­gle said.

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