Residents gathered Tuesday night at the second public meeting on the Baltimore police consent decree expressed frustration over what they said was the slow process of the monitors, asking why they weren’t in the Harlem Park neighborhood that was shut down for days after the fatal shooting of Detective Sean Suiter.
“Here’s the epic fail — not one of them showed up,” said Monique Smith. She said team members should have gone to the neighborhood to observe police who had taped off part of the neighborhood and restricted access, checking residents’ identification while looking for evidence related to the detective’s death.
The monitoring team is responsible for overseeing the a federal consent decree reached between the city and U.S. Department of Justice officials earlier this year.
Several dozen attended Tuesday’s meeting at Frederick Douglass High School’s auditorium—the second of four being held across the city to solicit input from the community before the monitoring team submits its plan to a federal judge in January.
The team is working to create a one-year and five-year plan to monitor the department’s compliance with the decree.
The consent decree was reached after a Justice Department investigation into Baltimore police following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody and subsequent rioting in the city. That investigation found widespread discriminatory and unconstitutional policing in Baltimore, particularly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.
The mandate requires the department to update policies, training and technology in various areas, including the way it deals with the community and handles instances of officer misconduct.
But at Tuesday’s meeting, many residents expressed concern that team members were not more actively involved in immediate problems with police actions.
“We are dying every day [and] it’s going to take them one year to get acclimated,” Smith said of the monitors.
“You don’t look hungry enough for me. You’re too passive,” she said of the team.
Lead monitor Ken Thompson assured residents that monitors were aware of the community’s concerns and they were keeping an eye on the situation. However, Thompson has said the team’s actions is limited by the federal decree.
The team, he said, is responsible for making sure the department is complying with the mandated reforms.
The plan they are working on, he said, is an important “roadmap” for instituting the reforms.
But several residents interrupted the presentation, asking for action now, and not to wait for a formal plan to be written and wait for data to be collected.
“Come and see what’s going on in the community,” called out one woman. She said that if a police officer had been killed in Roland Park, a predominantly white and wealthy neighborhood, the response would have been different.