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Department of Justice

Dominique Maria Bonessi

Elizabeth Wexler stands at a chalkboard at the Baltimore City Police Training Academy while 50 cadets look on. She draws a large "T" and asks the class to say what comes to mind when they think of mental health.

P. Kenneth Burns

Earlier this year, Baltimore entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice to reform the city police department. As part of the agreement, an independent monitor will keep track of the changes made and report publicly on the progress.

Tuesday night, the city hosted the first of two forums where community members could hear from the four finalists considered for monitors.

WYPR's Matt Tacka and Rachel Baye discuss what happened at the forum and the process for selecting the monitor.

DOJ v. FOP

Jan 13, 2017
P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Shortly after the Justice Department and Baltimore City officials announced they’d reached a legal contract to reform the city police department Thursday the police union complained they were left out of the negotiations.

But Friday a DOJ spokesperson contradicted those claims.

Baltimore, Feds agree to consent decree

Jan 12, 2017
P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read the full consent decree below.

Baltimore City and federal officials announced Thursday an agreement that will force the Baltimore Police Department to reform. The decree comes six months after a scathing Justice Department report found that city police routinely violated citizens’ rights; especially of African-Americans.

The consent decree is the product of a civil rights investigation into the police department after the 2015 in-custody death of Freddie Gray.  Gray suffered severe injuries while being transported in a police van.

Details of the consent decree were made public as a news conference was taking place announcing the agreement.

P. Kenneth Burns

In case you missed it, the Baltimore City Police Department is a state agency.  It has been that way since the 19th century and it might affect the city’s negotiations with the Department of Justice for sweeping police reforms.

FOP warned police about problems four years ago

Aug 26, 2016
P. Kenneth Burns

A report issued four years ago by the Baltimore police union expressed the same concerns about zero-tolerance enforcement and training issues as the caustic Justice Department report on the Baltimore Police Department two weeks ago.

In fact, the federal report cited several times a “Blueprint for Improved Policing” published by the city Fraternal Order of Police in 2012.

Arash Azizzada

The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP announced a new legislative agenda last week, following the release of a U.S. Department of Justice report chronicling a system of discrimination in the Baltimore Police Department. Changing police recruitment practices was on the list.

“We will mandate and oversee the recruitment of officers by the Baltimore Police Department and require Baltimore residents, particularly African Americans and women, to be recruited and hired to fill the more than 3,000 officer positions comprising the agency,” state Del. Jill Carter, a Democrat who represents northwest Baltimore, said at the Black Caucus’ press conference.

But even before the report’s release, the Baltimore Police had begun building efforts to recruit from communities that haven’t historically attracted many applicants.

    

Fraser Smith and Andy Green, editorial page editor of the Baltimore Sun, take up former Mayor/Governor Martin O'Malley's defense of "broken windows" policing that was so sharply criticized in the recent Department of Justice report on the Baltimore police department.

The Department of Justice’s 163 page report describes officers and sergeants acting as if they had a blank check to do whatever they wanted in the inner city neighborhoods; using unreasonable force against people who represented little or no threat, making warrantless arrests without probable cause, conducting illegal strip searches, sometimes in public.

Soon the DOJ, the city, the police department, and community leaders will get to work on the court-ordered mandatory consent decree that’s should be finalized November 1.

Mayor: DOJ findings “challenging” to hear

Aug 10, 2016
P. Kenneth Burns

Editor's note: The full DOJ report is posted at the bottom of this story.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she was committed to implementing police reforms after the U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report on the Baltimore Police Department.

The mayor said “the findings are challenging to hear” but that her administration did not wait around for the Justice Department to issue its 163-page report.

“The city has taken first steps in a long path to reform and we’ve begun to see real benefits,” she said.