Agreement on Police Reforms ‘Extremely Unlikely’ Before SRB Leaves Office

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Courtesy Mayor SRB/Facebook
Mayor Rawlings-Blake, BPD Commissioner Davis and DOJ Civil Rights Division Chief Vanita Gupta, Courtesy Mayor SRB/Facebook

There’s little to no chance the City and U.S. Justice Department will have finalized a consent decree holding required reforms for the Baltimore Police Department by Dec. 5, according to outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Rawlings-Blake shared this prediction after being prompted by a letter from six members of Maryland’s congressional delegation to her, Mayor-elect Catherine Pugh and outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin and U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Chris Van Hollen all signed the note asking for an update on the negotiations.

“We appreciate that it is no small task to ensure the decree fully addresses the DOJ recommendations and includes workable implementation steps,” they wrote. “However, we are hearing growing concern from the community about the status and delay in drafting the decree. We share those concerns.”

What they didn’t say outright was that they might be worried about the future of the talks between the feds and Baltimore police under a Trump administration. The intentions of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, for the consent decree remain uncertain.

The City and DOJ have been engaged in talks over the last several months. Rawlings-Blake wrote in her response to Maryland’s federal legislators — shared by FOX45 — that she and city lawyers just had a three-hour meeting with DOJ representatives on Monday. City Solicitor David Ralph told The Sun that they hadn’t yet received any drafts of the consent decree, but said “we have been working collaboratively with the Department of Justice all along.”

The City and the DOJ agreed to draw up legally required fixes for police in August, after federal investigators published a 164-page investigative report on the the Baltimore Police Department. Mayor SRB called for the civil rights investigation after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent riots in the city. The DOJ’s investigators found police allegedly had problems with racially discriminatory enforcement, using excessive force and mishandling sexual assault cases, among other issues.

Perhaps the City was trying to give a public a hint about this when it fudged on its initial self-imposed deadline of Nov. 1, later described by the mayor as “aspirational in nature.”

Per FOX45, last night, BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis told the City Council it can take many months and sometimes years to reach a consent decree between police and the DOJ. “I understand the anxiety and the concern,” he said at City Hall. “I want to get it right just as much as anyone and I promise we’re going to get it right.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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