Last year, a federal judge approved a consent decree between the city of Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice, mandating sweeping police reforms.
Here’s a what you need to know about the consent decree.
How did we get here?
The consent decree follows a Justice Department investigation of the Police Department that found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing in the city — particularly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. The city had invited the Justice Department to conduct the investigation in 2015 after rioting occurred following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody.
What does the consent decree require?
The consent decree mandates significant new restrictions on officers, including limits on when and how they can engage individuals suspected of criminal activity. It orders more training for police on de-escalation tactics and interactions with youths, those with mental illnesses, and protesters, as well as more supervision for officers. The deal also requires the city to invest in better technology and equipment, and for the Police Department to enhance civilian oversight and transparency.
Who will evaluate the department’s progress?
In October, federal Judge James K. Bredar appointed attorney Kenneth Thompson, of the Baltimore-based law firm Venable, to serve as the independent monitor overseeing its implementation. Thompson leads a team that includes lawyers, law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. It also includes the Baltimore-based nonprofit Baltimore Community Mediation Center, which is responsible for reaching out to the community and ensuring their voice is heard during the process.
The monitor has released a first-year plan that includes deadlines for a variety of tasks, including the review and revision of police policies on topics such as the use of force, body cameras and officer misconduct investigations.
One of the earliest deadlines is for the monitoring team to hire neighborhood liaisons to help communicate with residents. The monitoring team is scheduled to select the liaisons by April 11.
The monitoring team will schedule four community meetings this year, the first of which was this week. Those meetings will be held before each quarterly presentation to the court on the police department’s progress. The court hearings are scheduled for April 13, July 26 and Oct. 9, and Jan. 10.
Where can I get more information?
The city’s consent decree website: consentdecree.baltimorecity.gov
The monitoring team’s website: bpdmonitor.com