DOJ, Baltimore Reach Agreement On City’s Police Reform

After five months of negotiations, the United States Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore have reached an agreement on the consent decree outlining the plan and oversight of the progress to be made in reforming the city’s police force.

The city of Baltimore and the Justice Department announced on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2016 that an agreement has been reached between the parties, a consent decree enforceable by the court, to initiate reforms to the city’s law enforcement that will, as Attorney General Loretta Lynch outlined, restore community trust in law enforcement, increase public and police officer safety and restore effective and constitutional policing to the city of Baltimore.

Baltimore city officials and the Justice Department have been working together, along with receiving public input, since August 10, 2016, when the DOJ released its 163-page report on its investigation of the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody in April 2015.

The City of Baltimore’s spending board approved the consent decree, leaving only the approval of a federal judge for the agreement between the city and the DOJ to become official.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch characterized the plan for the city’s police reform to be an effort of the people of the city, saying, “It reflects significant input from the people of Baltimore,” Lynch said. “It’s all of you. It’s your commitment. It’s your dedication.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said, “The agreement is designed to increase transparency, public oversight [and] accountability. And, she said, it calls for “training, training, training, training.”

The consent decree calls for the establishment of an independent federal oversight committee and a community oversight task force to monitor the Baltimore Police as they move forward to ensure compliance.

It was in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray that tensions, anger and frustration grew in the city between the public and law enforcement, and that the DOJ initiated its investigation into Baltimore police conduct and practices in response to a request by then-mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Six Baltimore police officers were charged in the incident that resulted in Gray’s injuries and subsequent death while in police custody, although none of those officers were convicted. Three of the officers had charges against them dropped, causing further tensions.

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