Baltimore reaches agreement with DOJ on police department reforms
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday announced that it had reached an agreement with the city of Baltimore to reform its police department. The consent decree essentially puts the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) under federal supervision, requiring, among other things, that the BPD submit all “newly created or revised policies” to an Independent Monitor and the DOJ prior to publication and implementation.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said:
Reforms in this consent decree will help ensure effective and constitutional policing, restore the community’s trust in law enforcement, and advance public and officer safety. We could not be prouder to partner with the people of Baltimore on this journey towards making their city a community that protects the dignity, rights, and safety of all its people.
Some of the reforms include: respecting the First Amendment rights of all persons, investigation of sexual assault cases thoroughly and without gender bias, use of appropriate de-escalation techniques, resolution of incidents without force when possible, and use force in a manner that is proportional to the threat presented.
This announcement comes after a finding in August by the DOJ that the BPD had violated the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as other federal anti-discrimination laws with its policing practices. Reform measures are being implemented in police departments across the country primarily as a consequence of increasing reports of excessive force, racial profiling and officer-involved shootings.
In July Baltimore’s state attorney dropped charges against six officers charged with various crimes stemming from the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while he was in police custody. Gray’s death started widespread protests in Baltimore and around the nation.
In August 2015 Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced plans to issue new guidelines significantly limiting the use of racial profiling in policing as an effort to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
In April 2015 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Maricopa County Sherrif’s Office and, specifically, Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, engaged in practices of racial profiling in conducting traffic stops.
In November 2014 the UN Committee Against Torture urged the US to open investigations into all cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by police officers. The committee expressed concern over the use of force against certain people and the use of “racial profiling by police and immigration offices,” among other tactics used by law enforcement.
In September 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union accused governmental surveillance centers of invasion of privacy and reliance on racial and religious profiling in their Suspicious Activity Reports urging the centers to adopt stricter standards of reporting.