Po­lice union names re­forms

As­sis­tance for neigh­bor­hood re­cre­ation cen­ter al­lows Repub­li­can of­fice­hold­ers to en­gage with com­mu­nity Rec­om­men­da­tions from the FOP given to Jus­tice Depart­ment

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Rec­tor

Bal­ti­more’s po­lice union is call­ing on city and fed­eral of­fi­cials to in­clude bet­ter train­ing, more hir­ing, tech­nol­ogy up­grades and whistle­blower pro­tec­tions among the re­forms in the con­sent de­cree they are ne­go­ti­at­ing fol­low­ing the scathing U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice re­port on polic­ing in the city.

The union also wants clearer poli­cies, less fo­cus on ar­rest and other sta­tis­tics, faster in­ves­ti­ga­tions into com­plaints against of­fi­cers, re­fur­bished fa­cil­i­ties, a scaled-back useof-force pol­icy and a “cit­i­zen academy” to teach res­i­dents what it’s like to be a cop. And it asked the Jus­tice Depart­ment to weigh in on the trend of lo­cal res­i­dents film­ing po­lice en­coun­ters, sug­gest­ing it es­tab­lish a rule re­quir­ing ob­servers to re­main a sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance away from of­fi­cers at all times.

The Fra­ter­nal Order of Po­lice Lodge No. 3, the union that rep­re­sents city po­lice of­fi­cers, out­lined the rec­om­men­da­tions in a nine-page doc­u­ment de­liv­ered to the Jus­tice Depart­ment this week. Gene Ryan

The union sug­gests it is uniquely po­si­tioned to help solve the “cli­mate of dis­sat­is­fac­tion” it says has de­vel­oped among its mem­bers and the broader com­mu­nity amid years of bad pol­icy and un­scrupu­lous depart­ment lead­er­ship.

“Those we rep­re­sent have rec­og­nized that the poli­cies and prac­tices put in place by past ad­min­is­tra­tions have led us to this point,” Lt. Gene Ryan, the union’s pres­i­dent, wrote in a let­ter to Vanita Gupta, head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Civil Rights Divi­sion. “Our union as a whole wel­comes the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and the re­forms that they can bring to the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment to bet­ter the agency and Bal­ti­more.”

The Po­lice Depart­ment has ac­knowl­edged past mis­steps — par­tic­u­larly its adop­tion of zero-tol­er­ance polic­ing tac­tics un­der past ad­min­is­tra­tions — but has de­fended its ef­forts to make im­prove­ments.

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake and Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis have said re­peat­edly they are cham­pi­ons of re­form, have de­fended their records clean­ing up prob­lems in the depart­ment, and have promised that the city will com­ply fully with and help to fa­cil­i­tate all man­dates agreed to in the con­sent de­cree.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment en­tered into ne­go­ti­a­tions with city of­fi­cials this sum­mer after Gupta’s divi­sion re­ported it had found years of dis­crim­i­na­tory and un­con­sti­tu­tional polic­ing prac­tices at vir­tu­ally all lev­els of the Po­lice Depart­ment.

Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors said they found a pat­tern of indiscriminate stops and searches that af­fected black neigh­bor­hoods dis­pro­por­tion­ately, a dis­mis­sive at­ti­tude among of­fi­cers han­dling sex­ual as­sault cases, and un­con­sti­tu­tional tac­tics aimed at sup­press­ing crime.

The con­sent de­cree, which could be fi­nal­ized as early as next month, is to in­clude court-en­force­able re­forms based on in­put from the city, its res­i­dents and lo­cal po­lice, Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials have said. What those re­forms will be re­mains un­clear.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment con­firmed it had re­ceived the union’s rec­om­men­da­tions and said it will con­sider them along with rec­om­men­da­tions from com­mu­nity mem­bers and other stake­hold­ers.

Some in the com­mu­nity have said the po­lice union is likely to be an ob­sta­cle to nec­es­sary re­forms. The union has op­posed the par­tic­i­pa­tion of cit­i­zens in the trial boards that eval­u­ate com­plaints of of­fi­cer mis­con­duct.

At one re­cent com­mu­nity meet­ing, Ray Kelly, co-direc­tor of the non­profit No Bound­aries Coali­tion, called the po­lice union “our No. 1 op­po­nent for re­form.”

The union has ar­gued that res­i­dents don’t un­der­stand the job of of­fi­cers enough to pass judg­ment on their ac­tions as mem­bers of trial boards. It has not given its Lt. Gene Ryan wrote that “poli­cies and prac­tices put in place by past ad­min­is­tra­tions have led us to this point.” bless­ing to al­low cit­i­zens to serve on such boards, a step re­quired un­der a state law that went into ef­fect this month be­fore civil­ians may par­tic­i­pate.

In an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple signed by the Jus­tice Depart­ment and city of­fi­cials, a pre­cur­sor to the con­sent de­cree, the Jus­tice Depart­ment “ac­knowl­edges that the City and BPD are sub­ject to state law and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing obli­ga­tions.”

Some res­i­dents have ex­pressed con­cerns that the union’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment — which is also be­ing ne­go­ti­ated — will be used to block sig­nif­i­cant re­forms.

The union says it sup­ports re­form and con­cerns about its putting up road­blocks are a “red her­ring.”

Union of­fi­cials say they re­cently held fo­cus groups among its 4,500 ac­tive and re­tired mem­bers to un­der­stand which re­forms are most im­por­tant to them.

Of­fi­cials say the doc­u­ment they sent to the Jus­tice Depart­ment this week, which they pro­vided to The Bal­ti­more Sun, re­flects mem­bers’ pri­or­i­ties.

The union is call­ing for whistle­blower pro­tec­tions for its of­fi­cers. The union said the re­form is nec­es­sary be­cause su­per­vi­sors con­tinue to order rank-and-file of­fi­cers to do things ex­plic­itly crit­i­cized in the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s re­port.

“Of­fi­cers are re­port­ing that they’re given di­rect or­ders and pres­sured to con­tinue prac­tices that have been iden­ti­fied by DOJ as prob­lem­atic and pos­si­bly un­con­stitu- tional,” the union wrote. “Whistle­blower pro­tec­tions should be in­sti­tuted so that mem­bers of the BPD who bring vi­o­la­tions of the Con­sent De­cree di­rectly to the Fed­eral Mon­i­tor will be shielded.”

The union gave sim­i­lar rea­sons for why the depart­ment’s poli­cies should be clar­i­fied. Su­per­vi­sors “at all lev­els in­ter­pret pol­icy as it suits their own op­er­a­tional needs,” the union wrote, “at times us­ing phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion to order the cir­cum­vent­ing of poli­cies.”

T.J. Smith, a po­lice spokesman, de­clined to com­ment on the claims Wednes­day, say­ing he had not seen the union’s full list of rec­om­men­da­tions.

The union is ask­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment to weigh in on res­i­dents film­ing po­lice.

The union wrote that it “rec­og­nizes the right and merit of record­ing Of­fi­cers ac­tions,” but that in “the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment of ter­ror­ism and anti-po­lice vi­o­lence, Of­fi­cers can­not as­sume that those sur­round­ing them with cell phones are devoid of vi­o­lent in­tent.”

The union re­quested “a very clear writ­ten pol­icy, com­mu­ni­cated to the cit­i­zenry, that clar­i­fies the bound­aries re­quired for a safe op­er­a­tional space,” and sug­gested a “min­i­mum 21-foot rule.”

It also rec­om­mended po­lice “de­velop a pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment” re­gard­ing of­fi­cers’ body cam­eras, say­ing some res­i­dents “mis­tak­enly be­lieve” the cam­eras must be turned off at their re­quest.

The union asks that the depart­ment’s use-of-force pol­icy, up­dated this sum­mer, be re­vis­ited. The pol­icy for the first time re­quires fil­ing a re­port when an of­fi­cer points his gun at a sus­pect with­out shoot­ing or flashes a Taser’s elec­tri­cal cur­rent with­out fir­ing.

The union’s fo­cus groups found “that the new pol­icy failed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between a use of force and a show of force,” the union wrote.

It said the pol­icy is now “too broad” and en­com­passes “de-es­ca­la­tion” tac­tics, and that the higher num­bers of use-of-force in­ci­dents un­der the new def­i­ni­tion have hin­dered “our mem­bers’ abil­ity to be pro­moted, ap­ply for em­ploy­ment with out­side agen­cies, and seek new as­sign­ments within our agency.”

The union said new train­ing is needed “to off­set decades of in­doc­tri­na­tion by past failed poli­cies,” that pa­trol shifts are “grossly un­der­staffed,” that the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of many po­lice fa­cil­i­ties is “atro­cious,” and that the depart­ment as a whole needs a “tech­nol­ogy over­haul and up­grade” be­cause its cur­rent sys­tems “are out­dated and frag­mented.”

It also said the depart­ment should pub­lish more of its poli­cies on its web­site — which the depart­ment has at­tempted to do in re­cent weeks.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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