Bal­ti­more agrees to po­lice over­haul

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Juliet Linderman, Eric Tucker and David Dish­neau of The Associated Press; and by Kevin Rec­tor, Luke Broad­wa­ter, Justin Fen­ton, Justin Ge­orge and Erin Cox of The Bal­ti­more Sun.

BAL­TI­MORE — More than a year and a half af­ter the Jus­tice De­part­ment be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing polic­ing prac­tices in Bal­ti­more, the city’s Po­lice De­part­ment on Thurs­day agreed to a set of court-en­force­able over­hauls de­signed to curb dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices that have plagued the agency.

Mayor Catherine Pugh called Thurs­day a “great day” in Bal­ti­more as she an­nounced the 227-page con­sent de­cree agree­ment at City Hall along­side U.S. At­tor­ney General Loretta Lynch, Bal­ti­more Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis and other of­fi­cials.

“For me, this was not about cost. This was about fair­ness and un­der­stand­ing,” Pugh said. She said the fo­cus of the over­hauls would be “train­ing, train­ing, train­ing, train­ing.”

The Jus­tice De­part­ment agree­ment man­dates changes in the most fun­da­men­tal as­pects of daily po­lice work, in­clud­ing traf­fic stops, sus­pect searches and ar­rests. The con­sent de­cree marks the cul­mi­na­tion of months of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and is in­tended to cor­rect con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions iden­ti­fied in a scathing re­port re­leased last year.

The fil­ing, in the wan­ing days of Lynch’s ten­ure, serves as a cap­stone mo­ment for an ad­min­is­tra­tion that has made civil- rights en­force­ment a pri­or­ity and that has pur­sued sim­i­lar agree­ments with other large Amer­i­can po­lice forces.

The agree­ment is in­tended to re­main in place long af­ter Lynch leaves of­fice, although civil lib­er­ties ad­vo­cates are con­cerned that U.S. Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, an Alabama Repub­li­can who has been nom­i­nated to re­place Lynch, may not en­force con­sent de­crees with the same vigor.

“It is bind­ing,” Lynch said in mov­ing to ad­dress those con­cerns, “and it will live on past this ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

A hear­ing will al­low for pub­lic com­ment on the agree­ment be­fore it’s ap­proved by a fed­eral judge.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Bal­ti­more po­lice force af­ter the April 2015 death of Fred­die Gray, a young black man who was fa­tally in­jured while in the cus­tody of of­fi­cers. Its re­port last Au­gust found that of­fi­cers were rou­tinely stop­ping large num­bers of peo­ple in poor, black neigh­bor­hoods for du­bi­ous rea­sons, and un­law­fully arresting res­i­dents for speak­ing out in ways po­lice deemed dis­re­spect­ful.

Gray’s death shed light on the de­part­ment’s de­fi­cien­cies, in­clud­ing its of­fi­cers’ un­fair treat­ment of blacks liv­ing in the city’s most vul­ner­a­ble neigh­bor­hoods. But it also il­lu­mi­nated sys­temic fail­ures that touched on all as­pects of lo­cal gov­ern­ment: The lack of jobs, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and de­cent, safe hous­ing have long contributed to con­di­tions of in­equal­ity in the city.

The con­sent de­cree dis­cour­ages the ar­rests of peo­ple for of­fenses such as loi­ter­ing or lit­ter­ing, re­quir­ing a su­per­vi­sor to sign off on any re­quest to take some­one into cus­tody for a mi­nor in­frac­tion, and also man­dates ba­sic train­ing for mak­ing stops and searches.

In ad­di­tion, it com­mands of­fi­cers to use de-es­ca­la­tion tech­niques, thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gate sex­ual as­sault claims and send spe­cially trained units to dis­tress calls in­volv­ing peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness.

Po­lice will not be able to stop some­one just be­cause the per­son is in a high-crime area or just be­cause the per­son is try­ing to avoid con­tact with an of­fi­cer, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment.

The agree­ment also lays out poli­cies for trans­port­ing pris­on­ers, which harks back to the death of Gray, who suf­fered a spinal cord in­jury in the back of a po­lice van. The con­sent de­cree re­quires of­fi­cers to en­sure that pris­on­ers are pro­tected with seat belts and to check on them pe­ri­od­i­cally.

The cost of the changes will be shaped by fu­ture de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing by a fed­eral mon­i­tor ap­pointed to over­see the process. The agree­ment says the mon­i­tor will be se­lected for three years, and then can be reap­pointed. The deal also in­cludes a cap on how much the mon­i­tor can be paid by the city, at $1.475 mil­lion an­nu­ally. Other costs associated with the deal were not out­lined. The changes are ex­pected to cost the city mil­lions.

Has­san Mur­phy, one of the at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Gray’s mother and step­fa­ther, said they are “grat­i­fied to know at least some­thing ma­jor would come from their child’s death.”

The Jus­tice De­part­ment in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has headed about two dozen wide-rang­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­lice agen­cies, in­clud­ing in Chicago, Cleve­land and Fer­gu­son, Mo. The de­part­ment is ex­pected to an­nounce to­day its find­ings in the Chicago in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.