Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced the department’s new use-of-force policy Tuesday afternoon, outlining a plan that emphasizes training, real life scenarios and other actions to quell situations before they escalate.
The long awaited, 15-page plan covers 11 core areas including: deescalation, use-of-force investigations, firearm training, and emergency vehicle operation and pursuit, Harrison said.
Widespread reforms are required of the department by a consent decree reached between the city and the U.S. Justice Department in 2017 after an investigation found city police routinely violated the civil rights of residents, especially minorities.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Harrison said officers completed “several modules” of online training courses and 16 hours of in-class, scenario-based training. Additional training on use of force will be provided to officers next year.
Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Danny Murphy said the policy outlines different techniques officers can employ to “safely and successfully” end encounters with the public.
The new plan is the first change of use-of-force policies approved by the monitoring team and the Department of Justice, Murphy said during the press conference. The previous policy “anticipated” required reforms of the consent decree.
The next change in department policy will focus on stops, searches and arrests to ensure the department’s encounters with the public and suspects respect their constitutional rights. It will be released in January.
Harrison has introduced several new policies since taking over the department earlier this year, and said he is pushing to make the agency’s policies more transparent. The draft training proposals for the new policy changes are open to public comment on the department’s website, Murphy said.
Harrison sees the new policy announcement as a “major cultural shift” within the police department utilizing national best practices.
“Not only have we now gone live with policies, we have trained the entire department on use of force," the commissioner said. “So it is a cultural shift to slow down and create distance to make sure that we are all safe — members of the community and the police in resolving conflicts and encounters that we might have."