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Consent Decree Reforms Move Forward, With Some Delays

December 26, 2019
consent decree

Following an investigation into Baltimore’s policing practices in 2017, the city prepares to finally begin implementation. However, the process remains complex and its overseers request additional time adhering to certain aspects of the consent decree, reports The Baltimore Sun.

The investigation found Baltimore Police Department officers regularly impeded residents’ rights. The resulting report also demonstrated these civil rights violations occurred mostly in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

As a result, the BPD started reporting to U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar while an independent body worked to implement reforms. That team continues its work under Commissioner Michael Harrison. Members of the group monitoring the department’s progress cite Harrison’s presence as a strength.

Despite their confidence, delays have led to extension requests on several deadlines.

Consent Decree Reforms Applied in 2020

Original drafts of the reform plans took criticism from the independent monitors earlier this month. They found the plan vague and lacking details regarding community engagement. As a result, the City Solicitor Andre Davis wrote in favor of adjustments to the schedule of deadlines.

Among the requested extensions are new guidelines for stops, searches, and arrests. Davis suggests the department needs more time for pilot testing and public feedback.

Additionally, extensions provide more time to train on the use of body-cameras. Footage from body-cameras serves as material to assess how officers engage with the community in encounters with both individuals and groups exercising their right to protest. The department is required to analyze its protection, or violation, of First Amendment rights.

Further, delays seek more time to develop policies regarding large crowds and riot enforcement.

All these amount to a lengthier process than first conceived. While training proceeds and several new policies go into effect in 2020, yet more require further development.

While monitors and city officials express optimism, rank and file cops seem less enthused. Ken Thompson, head of the monitoring team, lists this among the challenges facing implementation efforts. “They haven’t quite bought into this,” he said.

2020 aims include training more than 2,000 BPD officers on the new policies, the main focus for the year ahead.

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