Team overseeing consent decree sets deadlines for Baltimore police

The team overseeing court-ordered reforms to the Baltimore Police Department released a draft on Monday of its first-year plan that sets deadlines for the review and revision of police policies on the use of force, body cameras and officer misconduct investigations.

The plan also requires the police department to develop new training curriculums on community policing and on “stops, searches, arrests and voluntary police-community interactions.”

The mandated reforms are part of a federal consent decree reached last year between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice. The decree stemmed from a federal investigation that found widespread discriminatory and unconstitutional policing in Baltimore, particularly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. The investigation was prompted by the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody.

The public is invited to review the plan and offer feedback until Jan. 29. The monitoring team is expected to submit its final first-year plan to a federal judge for approval on Feb. 5.

The draft report is the first document released by the monitoring team headed by attorney Ken Thompson, a partner at the Venable law firm. The team also includes others lawyers, former law enforcement officials, police reform experts and academics selected by the city and the Justice Department last year and approved by the federal judge overseeing the consent decree.

The report follows a year of intense scrutiny of the police department, during which homicides and other violent crimes continued to surge and members of the department’s elite gun unit were indicted on federal racketeering charges.

Police officials say they are dedicated to making the required reforms.

“Our first-year consent decree plan has been finalized thanks to a lot of hard work and collaboration,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said Monday. “The crime fight and better policing are not mutually exclusive”

Thompson did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Ray Kelly, director of the West Baltimore-based No Boundaries Coalition, which has advocated police reforms, had not reviewed the draft plan, but said Monday he hoped it should include opportunities for the public to provide input.

“I’m hoping there is a comprehensive engagement strategy,” Kelly said. “We just don’t feel there is any way the monitor can assess that the police department has completed a mandate without talking to people in those impacted communities.”

He said the monitor team needs to be available to the community “when incidents arise, or when there is a situation in the city.” The community wants to have an independent entity to voice concerns to, he said.

Language in the plan cautions that implementing all the reforms will take years, and that “not every Consent Decree requirement can be or will be addressed, much less met, in the first year.”

At the end of this month, the department is expected to appoint an officer, with the rank of sergeant or higher, to serve as a crisis intervention coordinator who will serve as a liaison between the police department and the behavioral health community.

By Feb. 5, the plan requires the police department to prepare a preliminary use-of-force training plan, which will compare current policies to what is required by the consent decree, and include specific proposals for annual use-of-force in-service training. A final use-of-force training policy is due in December.

In April, the police department must submit an initial draft on policies relating to complaints, and how investigations are conducted. A final plan is not due until later in the year, and a draft of misconduct investigation training isn’t due until January of next year.

Also in April, the department is expected to draft a study on “the current state of BPD’s equipment, technology, and information infrastructure,” according to the monitoring plan.

The monitoring team’s plan also requires the police department to complete a comprehensive staffing study in May to determine “the appropriate number” of officers needed in the city, and to detail deployment across the city, including officers, supervisors and specialized units. Davis and Mayor Catherine Pugh have lamented the lack of officers, and the difficulty in hiring more, which also has contributed to soaring overtime costs.

Also in May, it is required to have a draft policy for “all officers returning to duty following a traumatic incident” like an officer-involved shooting.

To read the plan, go to the monitor’s website at www.bpdmonitor.com.

Feedback can be submitted by completing a survey on the team’s website, completing the survey in person at the monitoring team’s office at 6 Redwood St., or mailing a letter to: BPD Monitoring Team c/o Kenneth Thompson Venable LLP 750 East Pratt Street, Suite 900 Baltimore, MD 21202.

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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