Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, center, speaks at a press conference, flanked by Danny Murphy, left, deputy commissioner of the compliance bureau, and Michael Sullivan, right, deputy commissioner of operations. Image still via Facebook Live.

Calling it “a major milestone” in the effort to reform the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison today touted the publication of a new use of force policy.

The revised 11-page document, first published on Sunday, places an emphasis on de-escalation techniques and calls on force to be used only when it is “reasonable, necessary, and proportional.”

Specifically, the de-escalation tactics encourage officers to slow down during a confrontation, create distance to close “the reactionary gap” and request additional personnel such as behavioral health specialists before resorting to force.

This is the first roll-out of revised policies under the federally mandated consent decree, Harrison said, adding that Department of Justice officials and the monitoring team overseeing the agreement collaborated on the framework.

Ahead of the publication the policy, sworn officers took an online course and completed 16 hours of training on de-escalation, decision-making and impartial policing. Harrison said additional training will be provided in the new year.

“In my opinion, and based on my experience, these new policies will go a long way towards helping us rebuild the relationship with our community,” Harrison said.

Danny Murphy, deputy commissioner of the compliance bureau, said the previous policy, put in place in 2016, “anticipated” changes required by federal officials, but this new set of guidelines has been vetted and approved.

Up next, Murphy said, the department will revise departmental policy on stops, searches and arrests–“another fundamental area for the consent decree and ensuring that we are conducting constitutional policing.”

A 334-page draft of the training curriculum covering those areas is up online during a public comment period that lasts until Dec. 21. After that, it will be tested piloted inside the department before being published in January, Murphy said.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...