A federal judge wants members of the public to chime in before he signs off on the the much-deliberated consent decree containing required reform measure for the Baltimore Police Department.
An order signed yesterday by the Hon. James K. Bredar of the U.S. District Court of Maryland sets April 6 as the date for a “Public Fairness Hearing” at the U.S. District Courthouse on W. Lombard Street. It also establishes a deadline one month earlier for submission of written comments on the reform package.
The U.S. Justice Department and lawyers for the City of Baltimore wrapped up negotiations about the consent decree in January when now-former Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the agreement was finally complete. Lawyers from both sides hashed it out over a period of five months after the Justice Department found Baltimore police to be at fault for discriminatory policing practices, unconstitutional stops and seizures, poor handling of sexual assault investigations and other issues.
The agreed-upon consent decree requires the BPD to fix those problems by implementing new training, community-policing strategies, processes for dealing with officer misconduct and rules for use of force, searches and sex assault investigations, among many other changes. It’s all here in this 227-page document.
But first, Judge Bredar has to sign the decree for it to take effect. Just to be sure that everyone is taking it seriously, he’s already asked Mayor Catherine Pugh and Justice Department attorneys to answer as to whether the city can afford the reforms and whether they will be implemented under a new Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions, who generally opposes court-ordered police reform. Mayor Pugh and a DOJ attorney answered in the affirmative for both questions.
Both parties requested that Judge Bredar let the public offer their take, which led him to issue his new order yesterday. “The law does not require a hearing, but the Court agrees a hearing in this case is in the interest of justice,” Bredar wrote.
Those who want to submit written comments must keep it somewhat short – no more than 10 pages — include their full names and omit their address for purposes of privacy. Comments can be hand-delivered or mailed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20530, or will be accepted via email at Baltimore.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who want to offer their input in person can show up at the hearing, set for Thursday, April 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 101. W. Lombard Street.