Bal­ti­more and fed­eral of­fi­cials OK bet­ter over­sight for po­lice

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION -

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.

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