Baltimore Police to stream administrative hearings to the public

Baltimore police want to steam disciplinary administrative hearings to the public.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis on Tuesday said the department plans to allow the public to watch streamed administrative disciplinary hearings at police headquarters.

The announcement was made along with other reforms, including recent leadership changes, made to improve the disciplinary system within the department that Davis highlighted at a news conference Tuesday.

"Much has been said, written and reported recently about shortcomings with discipline and accountability," Davis said. "I hear and profoundly understand those concerns and that's why I made several changes over the last six months ---tangible, real progress that will benefit the vast, vast majority of Baltimore police officers who absolutely and consistently do the right thing."

The changes come as police departments across the country have come under greater scrutiny following several high-profile deaths of young men following encounters with police, including Freddie Gray, who died a week after his arrest in West Baltimore in April. His death sparked rioting across the city.

This week, a group of state lawmakers announced 22 proposals to increase transparency and accountability within police departments across the state, including opening all police trial boards to the public and allowing citizens to serve on those boards.

Davis said the reforms will not only benefit the community but also officers.

"I will defend cops when they're right, I will train and counsel cops when they make mistakes while trying to do the right thing. And if I have to, I will discipline, fire, criminally charge police officers who betray their fellow police officers and our community," he said.

"It's important to know that they can go to their police department and observe an administrative hearing board because quite often, it's a very serious charge and the community wants to know that their police department has their best interest at heart," Davis said.

Davis also pointed to a number of personnel changes made in recent months, including Ganesha Martin, who now oversees compliance with an ongoing Department of Justice review, and Ian Dombrowski, the executive officer to the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Davis also announced Rodney Hill as the chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility, which includes Internal Affairs, Ethics, and the Special Investigative Response Team (S.I.R.T.). The SIRT unit handles shootings by officers and deaths in police custody.

Davis said training for internal affairs investigators has also been "reinforced recently," and the unit now reports directly to the commissioner.

He also announced Jason Johnson as the director of strategic development, who coordinates efforts involving discipline, training and policies, and Vernon R. Herron as director of performance improvement. Davis said Herron will help overhaul an early identification system to make sure officers in need of help receive it.

Davis also said the department plans to roll out body cameras to help improve credibility. He said they hope to announce a vendor in February, following a pilot program that tested three camera vendors last year.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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