Mayor, feds announce consent decree for Baltimore police

Posted at 7:36 AM, Jan 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-13 06:24:46-05
Nearly two years after Freddie Gray's death exposed systemic failures within the department that included excessive force, racial discrimination and illegal arrests, city officials reached an agreement with federal officials on court-enforceable reforms.
A consent decree was announced at a joint news conference with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. It was filed in U.S. District Court after being approved by the city's spending panel Thursday.
"Through this agreement we are moving forward together to work to heal tension and the relationship between BPD and the community," Lynch said. "We have no illusions that change comes easy or happens over night."
Next, a judge is expected to order a community input hearing, then work to find an appoint a monitor. There are measures built into the consent decree to make sure reforms and progress is happening within the police department. 
Pugh said she is interested in reforms, and is committed to doing whatever it takes. 
"I'm not interested in the price tag," she said. 
Pugh said the agreement contains 15 different reforms, and officers will go through 80 hours of training. 
"Everybody deserves respect and we are going to make sure that is the case," Pugh said.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said officers will benefit tremendously from the agreement. 
The agreement comes after months of negotiations between city and federal officials over how best to repair deep problems in the city's policing, which for years violated the civil rights of some of Baltimore's most vulnerable residents.
Funding for the consent decree was unanimously approved Thursday morning by the Baltimore Board of Estimates. 
"I think this is a wonderful and great day for Baltimore, for taking this step forward," Pugh said. 
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment specifically on the agreement in a statement released Thursday.
"Despite continued assurances by representatives of the Department of Justice that our organization would be included in the Consent Decree negotiations, no request to participate was ever forthcoming and we were not involved in the process," Ryan's statement read. "As we were not afforded an advance copy of the agreement, neither our rank and file members who will be the most affected, nor our Attorneys, have had a chance to read the final product and, as such, we will not have a comment now. Be assured, however, that a response will be forthcoming at the appropriate time." 
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby also released a statement on the decree. Her statement is as follows: 

This is a good day for Baltimore City, as this consent decree is a step in the right direction toward the necessary reforms to ensure accountability, transparency, and trust among our communities and law enforcement.  The vast majority of Baltimore City Police officers are good officers that risk their lives serving the citizens of this city each and every day and I’m encouraged by today’s comprehensive plan toward assuring best policing practices for a healthy community-law-enforcement relationship going forward.

I would like to thank Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice for their efforts on this contract with the City, and look forward to working with Mayor Pugh, Commissioner Davis and member of the community to ensure its compliance. We need each other to make our communities safe and I am a committed partner in this fight.

U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger, along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, issued a joint statement on the decree that read in part. 

We are very pleased to hear that the consent decree will be filed in court today, and applaud everyone who worked diligently these past several months to ensure that these negotiations move forward with the urgency they demand. We look forward to learning more about the contents of this important document, and hope that it will provide the roadmap for reform the BPD needs.  We must ensure that the basic human rights of every Baltimore City resident are respected and upheld by the police officers charged with keeping them safe.

The Associated Press and WMAR Staff contributed to this report. 

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