West Baltimore advocacy group pushes civilian oversight office
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.