City, DOJ to Whiff on Deadline for Consent Decree with Police Reforms

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Courtesy Mayor SRB/Facebook
Courtesy Mayor SRB/Facebook

We are approaching a day when the City of Baltimore and federal investigators will formally agree on how to fix the Baltimore Police Department. However, that day is not tomorrow, which was the deadline both sides set back in August.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement Friday to inform the public that the consent decree being hashed out between city and the U.S. Department of Justice won’t be ready by their self-imposed Nov. 1 deadline.

“The City of Baltimore continues to negotiate with the Department of Justice to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the issues outlined in their August 2016 Findings Report,” Rawlings-Blake said in her Friday statement. “As part of the process, the City and DOJ have actively encouraged and received feedback from a wide array of community members, civic leaders, and law enforcement organizations throughout the city in order to find solutions that will create lasting reform within the Baltimore Police Department.”

Addressing the missed date, Rawlings-Blake called the Nov. 1 mark “aspirational in nature.”

City officials and the feds have been working on the decree since the Justice Department released a 164-page report about its multi-year investigation of the police department. Rawlings-Blake called for the investigation after the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. In the end, the DOJ found police had some entrenched issues with conducting unlawful stops and searches, targeting black citizens, mishandling sexual assault cases, using excessive force and not fully grasping the concept of community policing.

Police have since been working on how to fix some of these issues. Commissioner Kevin Davis said right after the report’s publication that they had already been trying to fix many of the problems.

With the department at the center of the planned reforms, all parties have publicly spoken out about what they think needs fixing. Citizens and community groups had the chance to speak out at community meetings throughout the late summer and early fall. There, they addressed their problems with discriminatory enforcement and the need for improved community policing. On the other side of the argument, FOP Lodge #3, the union representing Baltimore police officers, recommended earlier this month that the decree order better training and equipment and more staff for the department.

Chief city prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has also chimed in with ways she thinks her office could hold police more accountable, though she didn’t tie her recommendations directly to the consent decree.

There’s no definite timeline for when the consent decree will be done, but the mayor is reportedly hoping it will be ready before she leaves office on Dec. 31. Once the agreement has been signed, it will go to the Baltimore City Council for their approval.

City Councilman Brandon Scott told FOX45 he is OK with a bit of extra wait time, so long as both sides address the most important issues. Council members are not in on the negotiations, he noted.

Ethan McLeod is an associate editor for Baltimore Fishbowl.

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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.
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