As detailed in the Department of Justice’s Findings Letter, the Baltimore City Police Department is responsible for an alarmingly high number of civil and constitutional rights violations while maintaining woefully inadequate structures to properly train, monitor and hold officers accountable. Through our own interviews with residents, The No Boundaries Coalition has identified multiple issues including racial profiling, disparities in the treatment of more affluent neighborhoods, invasive and inhumane searches on public streets, militarized confrontation of peaceful protests, and resistance to needed change. Without structural change and civilian oversight, the civil rights violations detailed in the DOJ report will continue and as a city we will find ourselves in a similar crisis 5 to 10 years from now.
We, the undersigned organizations and citizens of Baltimore City, demand that the parties negotiating the Consent Decree, namely the Department of Justice, City leadership, and the Baltimore Police Department, include the following measures of reform to ensure that every Baltimore citizen and neighborhood is policed in an equitable, effective, and constitutional manner.
We ask that the consent decree provide for the creation of a new entity, called the OFFICE OF POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY (“OPA”). This entity should be staffed by lawyers and investigators (who are already sworn law enforcement, as that term is used in the LEOBR) who have not previously been on the payroll of the Baltimore City Police Department. This OPA should report to a Board of Governors that is comprised of the following: 18 members of the community, 2 members of FOP, 2 members of Vanguard, the Commissioner, and one person appointed by the Mayor. These 23 people should meet every other week. In addition to investigating civilian complaints and reviewing internal affairs investigations, the OPA will also give input on department budgeting, policies, training, community policing practices and priorities. The community members of the OPA will be nominated by neighborhood associations and approved by city council. Given the discriminatory practices outlined in the DOJ report, we recommend that the OPA prioritize the inclusion of African Americans, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, and survivors of sexual assault so that the communities who are most affected by discriminatory practices are well represented in reform efforts. The OPA shall have an operating budget of $500,000 annually.
Additionally, we ask that the consent decree provide for the Court Monitor and the newly-created OPA to have full and immediate access to all the operations of Internal Affairs, including but not limited to immediate access to all emails and documents. Within 30 days of the consent decree all Internal Affairs complaints shall be forwarded to the Court Monitor and OPA within 48 hours.
We request that the consent decree include a provision requiring the Court Monitor and OPA to be advised within 24 hours of every weapons discharge (including tasers), every use of physical force (including use of hands), and every strip search. In addition, we request that the consent decree include a provision requiring the Department to report to the Court Monitor and OPA every instance of the following:
- when an officer fails to report to trial to testify,
- when the same person is stopped more than once in a six month period without arrest
- when a person making a complaint about an officer is subsequently stopped or arrested for any reason
- when someone alleges evidence is destroyed
- when someone alleges evidence is planted
Additionally, given the problematic handling of sex crimes, we ask that the consent decree include a provision permitting Court Monitor and OPA to have immediate access to all files, including all interview transcripts, statements provided by witnesses, and other documents generated during the investigations of allegations of sex crimes that were not pursued. We request that all untested rape kits are tested within 90 days of the consent decree. In addition, we ask that the consent decree require that in each instance when the BPD fails to pursue an allegation of a sex crime, the decision to refrain from prosecuting be submitted to the Court Monitor and OPA for review.
We request that the consent decree require mandatory training on anti-racism, de-escalation and community policing. This training should be tailored for and provided to all levels of police, including seasoned officers, command staff and cadets. This training should focus on how to talk with residents and community members, how to build relationships with residents, and how to patrol on foot. In addition to receiving anti-racism training, officers should be trained on how to interact with youth, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, women, and LGBTQ community members. The consent decree should include training models from best practices, such as found in Richmond, CA, and by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. We request that the consent order include a provision requiring the Department to adopt and implement the use of training materials approved by DOJ and OPA no later than 60 days after the execution of the consent decree.
We request that the consent order include a provision requiring the Department to issue a hard-copy binder with all the updated policies approved by DOJ and OPA to each and every officer no later than 60 days after the execution of the consent decree.
Even if the DOJ report spurs the Baltimore Police Department to improve training and accountability, there is no mechanism to ensure those similar reforms will prevail in the Baltimore School Police. As a result, we ask that the consent decree include the termination of the MOU with the Baltimore School Police.
3. COMMUNITY POLICING
Through department-wide policies, BPD should incentivize “positive policing” and “community policy” when performed by patrol officers and end the “war on drug” and “zero tolerance” policing. BPD policies shall prioritize supporting safe and healthy neighborhoods over making a high number of arrests. These reforms shall include
- fully funding permanent foot posts in resident-designated areas.
- reinstating relationship-building programs (e.g. ‘Officer Friendly’ and ‘PAL Centers’)
- requiring every level of the police department (from command staff to patrol officers) to meet quarterly with local leaders and residents. (The Police Department shall work with organized community groups, such as the No Boundaries Coalition and BUILD to set up and facilitate these meetings.)
- enacting department-wide policies that discourage and closely monitor discretionary arrests, including tracking officer making the arrest, persons arrested, race of persons arrested and neighborhoods of the arrest. This data shall be reported to the OPA quarterly.
- incentivizing officers to live in Baltimore City. Within 9 months of the Consent Decree BPD shall create a jobs pipeline for Baltimore City youth (ages 18-29) to recruit and train for the department.
- prioritizing officers building relationships with community over officers being re-assigned. BPD shall report officer reassignments to the OPA to make sure problematic officers are not being transferred.
- creating a diversion program for Baltimore youth so that contacts with law enforcement have alternative options to arrest.
- updating policies to ensure BPD protects citizens’ first amendment rights in how it responds to protests. All detainments and arrests made during protests shall be reported to the OPA and Court Monitor.
- Through training of officers and partnerships with non-law enforcement agencies, BPD shall create a model that limits law enforcement interaction with and the criminalization of people with disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse and people in crisis by prioritizing alternative interventions and services.
Data: We request that the consent decree increase transparency by requiring the tracking and publicizing of data on foot and traffic stops and use of force including the race of those who are targeted during stops. The consent decree should also require the tracking and publicizing of data on 911 response time, as this data must be made public to ensure fair and equitable police response to both affluent and low income neighborhoods in Baltimore. This data shall be reported to the OPA and Court Monitor every week. The OPA shall aggregate the data and disclose it on its website. The OPA shall also aggregate data on civilian complaints regarding use of force, and disclose that data on its website.
Collective Bargaining: To the extent permitted by the laws governing collective bargaining, the consent decree should require public input on all measures within the BPD union contract that affect public policy and police accountability structure, such as civilian oversight. To the extent permitted by the laws governing collective bargaining, the OPA shall have input on all measures within the union contract that impact police accountability.
5. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR IDENTIFIED OFFICERS
The DOJ report makes clear that a significant number of Baltimore Police Department officers, including but not limited to management personnel, were involved in culpable conduct. We ask that the consent decree include deadlines for completion of individual investigations and, if necessary, trial boards for the following categories of officers:
- all officers identified by DOJ as making racial slurs
- all officers identified by DOJ as making gender slurs
- all officers on the “do not call” list
- all officers identified by states attorney’s office as problematic witnesses
- all officers identified by DOJ as having used excessive force
- all officers identified by DOJ as having failed to exercise their supervisory power in an effective and lawful manner
- all officers identified by DOJ as engaging in criminal conduct related to the sex trade
In addition, we ask that the consent decree provide for the Court Monitor and the OPA to have an immediate access to those independent investigations and trial boards, including but not limited to immediate access to all interview transcripts, statements provided by witnesses, and other documents generated during the independent investigations.
Additionally, the DOJ report makes clear that IA is a wholly-ineffective unit. We ask that the consent decree include a date certain by which the leadership of Internal Affairs has been replaced in its entirety.
6. COMMUNITY-DRIVEN PROCESS
To ensure that we get the best Consent Decree and implementation of the Decree possible we ask the DOJ ensure that the monitoring team selected and agreed upon by the parties be required to contract with community based groups to regularly solicit community feedback through structured interviews about police citizen contacts throughout the monitoring process. This will be critical to rebuilding community trust and ensuring that reforms or systems changes implemented at the department level are not considered adequate until their impact is felt at the community level.
Additionally, we request transparent monitor selection process including robust community input through public hearings or forums at which the monitor candidates present their qualifications, and at which members of the public have a chance to ask questions, and provide feedback to the City and DOJ about the candidates.
In addition, we ask that, once an agreement is reached between Baltimore City and the Department of Justice, parties see public comment and convene a public hearing before submitting the proposed order to the Court.
Posted on September 19, 2016