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Baltimore Police must adhere to Constitution when making stops, according to consent decree

Posted at 11:45 PM, Jan 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-12 23:45:11-05
A consent decree reached between Baltimore and the Department of Justice is expected to bring wide-ranging changes to the city's police department and will mandate how the department is reformed moving forward.
 
It was filed jointly Thursday in federal court.
 
The legally-binding document took a little over five months for both sides to come to terms on, which is shorter than the time taken for many other agreements to be reached between the Department and other cities. The rush was the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, whose attorney general nominee, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has criticized similar agreements.
 
However, now that it's in place, Justice officials said it can't be undone.
 
Over 227 pages, the document lays out ways Baltimore Police must reform its policing and outlines 15 areas of reform, including community policing, which was the topic of a speech delivered by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the University of Baltimore law school Thursday evening.
 
"This is to initiate the necessary policy changes," said Ray Kelly, a community organizer with the No Boundaries Coalition in west Baltimore.
 

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Kelly said community policing is lacking in west Baltimore and its something he wanted to see.
 
"It's definitely not there yet," he said.
 
Lynch's speech was delivered in the school's packed auditorium and was attended by high-ranking state and city officials, including Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, former city mayor and president of the university law school Kurt Schmoke, and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
 
"This reform package will create a stronger and a safer city," Lynch said.
 
Lynch attended a morning press conference at City Hall along with Mayor Catherine Pugh, where the consent-decree was announced.
 
The document will require police adhere to the U.S. Constitution when making stops, searches and arrests, build on the police departments recently changed use of force policies, while mandating officers focus on de-escalation, and prohibit officers from using a persons mere presence in a high crime area as basis for a stop, which was one of the key factors in why police stopped Freddie Gray.
 
His death while in police custody set of a day of violence, arson and looting in April 2015. Six officers were arrested and charged with his death. None were convicted.
 
"The city and BPD will implement comprehensive reforms to end the legacy of Baltimore's zero tolerance policing," said Vanita Gupta, head of the justice departments civil rights division.
 
The consent-decree seeks the changes after a justice department in Aug. outlined discriminatory and unconstitutional policing that affected mostly African-Americans, while disregarding reports of sexual assault and retaliating against people exercising free speech.
 
"Today is a revolution in policing in Baltimore that we hope will be remembered," said W. Billy Murphy, a Baltimore attorney representing the family of Freddie Gray.
 
The consent-decree also requires the city to create a "community oversight task force" to increase civilian oversight.
 
The next step is a public hearing, which will be followed by the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee its implementation.
 
City officials haven't yet attached a price tag to the reforms.
 

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