Baltimore and federal officials OK better oversight for police
BALTIMORE >> Nearly two years after the death of a black man in police custody led to violent riots here, the Justice Department and city leaders announced Thursday a longsought agreement to impose greater oversight and training on a police force found to have routinely harassed minorities. Negotiators have been rushing for weeks to complete the deal before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump and the expected confirmation of his attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. Both men are seen as hostile to police oversight agreements like the one put in place Thursday, with Trump denouncing what he called the “war on police” during his presidential campaign. Justice Department negotiators are moving quickly to complete a second investigation in Chicago, which also has been wracked by violence and tension between the police and residents. The findings of that investigation could come as early as today. Announcing the Baltimore deal at City Hall, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said she was confident that the reforms mandated by the deal would take hold even if the Trump administration were to take steps to try to undo it.
“This agreement is binding and it will live on,” said Lynch, flanked by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Vanita Gupta, the head of the civil rights division at the Justice Department, and others. Davis said the pact provides “a path forward” that he said will benefit both his officers and the city’s residents, and that it should serve as a model for thousands of other police departments in tackling tensions. Baltimore came under Justice Department scrutiny after an African-American man, Freddie Gray, 25, died of a spinal cord injury he received while in police custody in 2015 as he was being transported in a department van.
The Justice Department filed a 227-page consent decree in federal court Thursday just minutes before announcing the deal. A judge must approve it before the city and Police Department begin putting in place more than a dozen changes, including improved training and technology, community oversight and greater transparency in dealings between the police and the public.