Mayor Catherine Pugh wants you…to help oversee a crucial component of court-ordered police reform in Baltimore.
Pugh announced at City Hall this morning that she will appoint five Baltimore residents to join the new Civilian Oversight Task Force, which “will support the City’s compliance with the terms of the consent decree,” according to her office.
“It is really important that the citizens of Baltimore have input to recommend reforms as it relates to civilian oversight” of police, said Mayor Pugh in her announcement today, standing alongside Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Jill Carter, the former delegate who now directs Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement.
The five-member task force will be in charge of reviewing how well the Civilian Review Board works in Baltimore and propose changes to make it more effective, “to increase cooperation between the Baltimore Police Department and the communities it serves,” Pugh said.
The creation of the task force was one of the requirements laid out in the 227-page consent decree signed this past month by U.S. District Judge James Bredar. The binding document requires the Baltimore Police Department to change its policies to correct issues of discriminatory policing, excessive use of force, unconstitutional stops and seizures, mishandling of sexual assault cases and a slew of other problems.
The decree, which was reached by city and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys over a period of several months, is the product of the Justice Department’s investigation into the police department following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody in April 2015 and the resulting unrest.
One of the many requirements in the agreement is that police will forward all misconduct complaints, “where appropriate,” to the Civilian Review Board, an action that the Baltimore Sun found last year wasn’t happening for a majority of complaints against officers.
The city has had the Civilian Review Board in place for more than two decades as an oversight body to help Baltimore residents hold police accountable for their misconduct, such as abuse, excessive force and harassment, among other behaviors.
The body is supposed to review complaints and work with police to confront those issues by the perpetrating officers. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been very effective – despite promises by police leadership to forward more complaints against officers to the board for its review – and in fact has been empty since Pugh took office. (The mayor said today that she’s now forwarded a list of Civilian Review Board nominees to the City Council.)
The application to become a task force member is now available on a new city website all about the consent decree, which Pugh also announced today. Requirements for membership include being able to commit at least 10 hours a month for 11 straight months to the task force and to attend all orientation and training sessions, “including ride-alongs with police officers.”
Applicants should also demonstrate an ability to be “impartial and objective,” a “commitment to serving Baltimore communities,” an “interest and/or involvement in issues concerning civilian oversight” and “possess sound communication and listening skills,” among other requirements. Applications are due May 22.
The city and the court are also seeking an independent monitor to oversee implementation of police reform. That application is supposed to be available on the court and city websites by the end of today, according to Pugh. She added that she expects the monitor will be in place by June or July.
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