Slow Progress in Baltimore Police Reforms

One year after a judge signed a consent decree between Baltimore officials and the U.S. Justice Department, a shakeup in police leadership and a federal prosecution of officers has many wondering if the reforms are really taking hold. A federal court hearing is scheduled for April 13.

One year after federal judge James Bredar signed consent decree on police reform between Baltimore officials and the U.S. Justice Department, many are wondering whether the reforms are actually being implemented, the Baltimore Sun reports. The independent monitor overseeing the process has held a few public forums, but much of the reform work so far has been conducted behind closed doors. The first public court hearing on the decree since it went into effect is scheduled before Bredar next Friday. A shakeup in police leadership has left the reform effort without some of its most vocal internal champions. Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Police Commissioner Kevin Davis in January. Two other top officials then resigned.

Ray Kelly of the city’s No Boundaries Coalition of Central West Baltimore said the federal prosecution of the Gun Trace Task Force — eight members were convicted of racketeering after years of robbing people of money and drugs — and the shakeup at police headquarters have left some residents “put off” about the reform process. Erica Hamlett filed a complaint with the police department in November alleging that an officer pulled a gun on her son without justification, but has received no response. “To me, it’s just been talk [about reform],” she said.The city and the Justice Department negotiated the consent decree after DOJ investigators found that officers in Baltimore engaged in widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing. The agreement imposes significant restrictions on how officers can interact with individuals on the street, including in stops and searches, and orders training in de-escalation tactics and interactions with specific groups, including youths and people with mental illness. It calls for increased supervision of officers, enhanced civilian oversight of the department, and more transparency. It requires investments in technology and equipment.