Baltimore officials voted unanimously to approve spending city money on police reforms agreed to under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
The Baltimore Police Department will reassess its relationship with the city schools police department and strengthen protocols to better coordinate how the two agencies patrol the city and investigate complaints.
In a consent decree released Thursday, Department of Justice and city officials agreed to a slew of reforms to overhaul policing in the city, including defining the murky lines of accountability when the city police department uses the school police force to supplement patrol duties.
The city school police department, the only one of its kind in the state, is specifically designated to protect the city school system, but also has citywide jurisdiction to respond to calls and make arrests.
In August, the Justice Department found the city police department "essentially used the Baltimore School Police as an auxiliary force to BPD."
In a statement Thursday, city schools CEO Sonja Santelises said "we are studying the consent decree and its implications for city schools and are working with the police commissioner."
But investigators found serious lapses in accountability when school police exercised their citywide jurisdiction, especially when they stopped citizens, used force, or had complaints lodged against them while responding to calls in the city.
The agreement calls on the city police department to conduct an assessment on how often the city school police department exercised their law enforcement powers in the city, including when they respond to calls, make arrests, and incidents where they use force. Such a review would be done biennially, the agreement says.
The agreement also requires the department to amend the "memorandum of understanding" that outlines the partnership between the two agencies to require officers to cooperate with each department's internal investigations.
The Baltimore police department would also establish protocols for civilian complaints against school police officers when they are responding to incidents in the city.
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In August, investigators found instances where the city police department refused to take complaints from private citizens and residents about school police misconduct, did not refer them to any other oversight authority or agency, and did not do due diligence to determine whether police were acting under the city police department's authority.
"This failure similarly undermines accountability and community confidence in both BPD and the school police," the report said.
Investigators also expressed concern about the lack of a paper trail of school police activity when they served as citywide law enforcement. They wrote that while the agreement requires school police to file incident and arrest reports, it does not appear to require them to file reports on searches and stops, and that in all instances data is not being properly collected and analyzed.