Former Baltimore Detective in NY Times: Culture Change is Key to Police Reform

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Police_car_With_lights_onAfter last week’s federal report criticizing the police department, a former detective writes that the Baltimore Police Department is about changing people as much as it is about the “patterns and practices” that the document looked at.

From stops to sexual assault cases, the report from the U.S. Department of Justice pointed out numerous indications that Baltimore police routinely violate the civil rights of people in the city. Lots of people in Baltimore already knew that, but it’s still worth paying some attention. Since it was issued by the nation’s “top cops,” the document can serve as a foundation for change that is overseen by courts.

As the process moves on, how to change the police department will be a topic that determines whether the effort is successful. Writing in the New York Times, former detective Joseph Crystal says ambitious reform is needed:

“Most of the majors, colonels and deputy commissioners do not know how to police any other way,” he writes. “The Baltimore police force needs to be rebuilt and retrained from the top as well as from the bottom.”

That’s a big undertaking. But it’s based on the fact that change will ultimately come from people. An “us versus them” mentality is responsible for police committing violations, and the fact that they will never speak out against each other.

For police, this mindset creates an atmosphere where the cops themselves feel unsafe. An officer who testified against recently-convicted officer Wesley Cagle was praised by officials like the police commissioner and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby last week for coming clean about the shooting. But before he appeared in court, Crystal writes that he had to be pulled from street duty because he would not get backup on calls.

Read the full article.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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