The independent city board that investigates police misconduct said Wednesday that the Police Department has not sent any new cases to the board since its members refused to sign a confidentiality agreement last month.
Bridal Pearson, the chairman of the Civilian Review Board, said the group typically receives eight to 15 cases from the department’s internal affairs division each month.
But for its meeting Thursday evening, he said, “we’ve received nothing from IAD.”
Pearson said the board has not received any internal affairs cases since its July 19 meeting, when members declined a request by the city solicitor that they sign a confidentiality agreement. City Solicitor Andre Davis said the agreement was necessary because the group’s work discussing police officer misconduct is subject to confidentiality laws.
Board members also expressed concerns about a restructuring Pearson said placed the board under the city’s law department.
Members continue to receive complaints that citizens have made directly to the board.
The board is part of the city Office of Civil Rights, which Pearson said has been moved in recent months under control of the law department, which is led by Davis.
The law department, among its many functions, represents police officers, the Police Department and the city in lawsuits. Pearson has said it’s a “conflict of interest” for the independent board to fall under the office that represents police.
Pearson said internal affairs stopped sending cases to the review board at Davis’ request.
A Baltimore Police Department spokesman referred questions to Davis. Davis declined to comment.
“I represent both [the Civilian Review Board] and the BPD so I do not discuss my confidential work with clients,” Davis wrote in an email.
Davis said at the July meeting that the confidentiality agreements would not change the nature of the board’s work.
Davis said the confidentiality agreements were needed to avoid a repeat of what happened in the case of Keith Davis Jr., the man who has been tried three times in the death of a Pimlico Race Course security guard. Keith Davis was shot by police. In that case, the board’s unredacted findings were given to the media by Keith Davis’ wife.
Pearson said he is concerned that withholding cases from the civilian board could lead cases to expire before the board can recommend discipline to the police commissioner.
State law prohibits police departments from bringing administrative charges against officers more than one year after becoming aware of alleged misconduct, except in cases of criminal activity or excessive force.
“One of the major concerns is that these cases will expire,” Pearson said. “To go through this entire investigation and then find out that your case is expired because of political posturing — that is very harmful for the citizens.”
He said board members would not sign the confidentiality agreement.
Board members and supporters told the City Council’s public safety committee Wednesday that they strongly oppose the restructuring and the confidentiality agreements.
Councilman Brandon M. Scott, who chairs the committee, said the changes “go against the very fabric” of the board’s mission, and undermine “the efforts of the consent decree and all the reforms we’re trying to push legislatively.”
“This council does not know and I do not understand why the law department is pushing these changes on the Civilian Review Board,” he said. “They’re having their power stripped from underneath their feet.”
Amy Cruice, a legal program administrator for the ACLU of Maryland, said the city’s changes are “lawless.”
“By that I mean this goes far beyond what the law says, in terms of what the Civilian Review Board should have access to, as well as what the Civilian Review Board can communicate to the public,” she said. An ACLU representative is a nonvoting member of the board.
Pearson said board members are considering voting Thursday to subpoena the police department for the cases that have been withheld.
He said that will create another scenario that he believes is a conflict of interest for Davis.
“Mr. Davis cannot supply the subpoena for the Civilian Review Board and then fight it for” internal affairs, he said.
Pearson and the ACLU want the board to be represented by a lawyer who does not also represent the Police Department.
Board member Mel Currie said he has told Davis that “it seems you’re playing chess against yourself.”
Currie told The Baltimore Sun the city is seeking to prevent “political fallout” from the board’s accountability work.
“They have a short-term goal to protect themselves politically or monetarily, when in fact we have a long-term goal of making the city a better place,” he said.