Clean up Po­lice Depart­ment in­ter­nal af­fairs

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND VOICES -

We have got­ten more ev­i­dence re­cently that the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment has a long way to go in root­ing out bad be­hav­ior by its of­fi­cers.

The first came in the lat­est con­sent de­cree re­port that found that in­ves­ti­ga­tions into mis­con­duct have im­proved but are still “de­fi­cient.” Then there was the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Sun re­porter Kevin Rec­tor that re­vealed that, since 2016, in­ter­nal af­fairs has al­lowed 76 in­quiries into com­plaints against of­fi­cers ex­pire. Ba­si­cally, there are of­fi­cers walk­ing around who could very well be guilty of break­ing the law and vi­o­lat­ing the rights of cit­i­zens.

We have said con­sis­tently that weed­ing out the dirty cops is key to re­gain­ing trust in the com­mu­nity and ul­ti­mately clean­ing up crime. The con­sent de­cree with the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment also listed ad­dress­ing mis­con­duct as a goal for the depart­ment. The lat­est data pro­vides more rea­son to make this hap­pen.

Now that Com­mis­sioner Michael Har­ri­son has re­leased his crime plan, he should fo­cus on this cru­cial com­po­nent of over­haul­ing his depart­ment.

We think that Mr. Har­ri­son is the right per­son to do it. Af­ter all, he had hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence as an un­der­cover agent in in­ter­nal af­fairs in New Or­leans, where he was also chief be­fore com­ing to Bal­ti­more. That knowl­edge about how cops end up per­form­ing bad deeds should serve Bal­ti­more well.

The com­mis­sioner’s crime plan in­cludes sev­eral ini­tia­tives that will hold of­fi­cers more ac­count­able and, per­haps, make them think twice be­fore do­ing some­thing they shouldn’t. The depart­ment will bet­ter track al­le­ga­tions against of­fi­cers and look for signs of be­hav­ior that may warn of a prob­lem. Train­ing will be pro­vided to of­fi­cers to help them speak up when they see trou­bling be­hav­ior by their col­leagues and even their bosses. A civil­ian re­view board now also re­views mis­con­duct cases and rec­om­mends dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

But there is more we want to see from the depart­ment once an of­fi­cer is ac­cused of wrong­do­ing. For one, in­ves­ti­ga­tions need to be con­ducted in a timely man­ner, and when they are not, peo­ple need to be dis­ci­plined. A crim­i­nal would never be let off the hook be­cause an in­ves­ti­ga­tion wasn’t com­pleted by a dead­line and nei­ther should a po­lice of­fi­cer. The depart­ment hasn’t even fin­ished the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Gun Trace Task Force, and those of­fi­cers are al­ready serv­ing prison sen­tences for their in­dis­cre­tions, the con­sent re­port found. Know­ing the weak­nesses that led to the rogue be­hav­ior of the seven cops on that task force can be used in strate­gies to pre­vent other scan­dals.

We sus­pect we will see more vi­sion now that Mr. Har­ri­son has named a new deputy com­mis­sioner in charge of the Pub­lic In­tegrity Unit, which over­sees of­fi­cer mis­con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Brian Nadeau is now the as­sis­tant spe­cial agent in charge of the FBI’s Bal­ti­more Field Of­fice.

Mr. Nadeau is not a home­grown Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cer, which could help in this role. We wouldn’t ex­pect him to have the close personal re­la­tion­ships that might im­pede an in­ves­ti­ga­tion as of­fi­cers who have served to­gether for years and might not want to turn in a fel­low col­league. Mr. Nadeau worked as a po­lice of­fi­cer in Maine and then came to the FBI in 1997 work­ing crime in­ves­ti­ga­tion in New York. At the same time, he knows Bal­ti­more from his work in the FBI’s field of­fice here. Time will tell if his ex­pe­ri­ence will help clean up the bad ap­ples in the depart­ment.

An­other sim­ple thing Mr. Har­ri­son could con­sider is to bet­ter track when cor­rup­tion cases are about to ex­pire and put all hands on deck to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. There should also be a mech­a­nism in place to ex­tend dead­lines if there is a good rea­son for why a case is be­ing held up, some­thing that would have to be changed in state law. So far this year, 25 cases have al­ready ex­pired with­out any con­clu­sion. This de­spite the heated scru­tiny on po­lice mis­con­duct.

Lastly, the com­mis­sioner should sup­port trans­parency ef­forts, such as a bill pend­ing in the City Coun­cil that would get rid of “gag or­ders” that pre­vent vic­tims of po­lice malfea­sance from talk­ing about set­tle­ments with the city. He could also speak out in sup­port of trans­parency laws that give fam­i­lies of vic­tims ac­cess to body cam­era footage, au­topsy re­ports, in­ves­ti­ga­tion files and com­plaints against an of­fi­cer that don’t re­sult in death. This will show that de­part­ments aren’t try­ing to cover for of­fi­cers.

Po­lice spokesman Matt Jablow told Mr. Rec­tor that the com­mis­sioner “rec­og­nizes the sig­nif­i­cant is­sues fac­ing our in­ter­nal af­fairs op­er­a­tions and the im­por­tance of cor­rect­ing those is­sues as quickly as pos­si­ble.” Mr. Jablow also said a more “ro­bust, ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive in­ter­nal af­fairs unit” will be created.

Po­lice will find their jobs will be­come eas­ier, and crime fight­ing more ef­fec­tive, when the com­mu­nity trusts their in­tegrity once again.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.