Justice Department agrees to reforms for Baltimore Police Department

Posted at 6:47 AM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 18:25:47-05
The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to reforms for the Baltimore Police Department. 

A federal judge heard from the Baltimore mayor and others on a proposed consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the city's police department Wednesday morning.

Back on Inauguration Day, representatives from the Department of Justice delayed the first hearing on Baltimore’s consent decree to brief the new administration.

A week and a half later, Judge James Bredar wanted to know if they still plan on honoring it.

The answer was yes.

But the judge sought more assurance later in the hearing, saying, “Political winds change, laws do not. In this branch of government, we do not operate on a four year cycle. I know that is clear, I just wanted to say it.”

DOJ lawyers again responded the department is indeed committed to defend the agreement, a development that did not come as a surprise to Mayor Catherine Pugh.

"Someone was asking me if I felt with the new administration that this would be a problem. I said as I read the comments that were made that I didn't see them turning back the consent decree and I was confident that the consent decree would move forward."

And it will, but not before the Judge Bredar cleared up some of the concerns about the agreement.

Number one was cost.

Bredar wanted it on the record that no matter the cost of the enforced reform, the city would indeed buck up.

He requested the mayor to attend today's hearing specifically to answer that question.

"What the judge said is if he were to issue an order that said that we needed to get the Cadillac as opposed to the Chevy, would we comply and the answer would be yes," Pugh said.

The mayor's commitment satisfied the judge as did the explanation he received by both the city and the DOJ on more than 20 other questions he had about the consent decree.

How they would conduct public input, timelines on performance goals, clearer standards on officer stops and the choice of a monitor were all discussed at length and on the record.

It was a hearing the fraternal order of police was happy to see in order to get it right before it becomes enforced.

"We're okay with reform. We know as a union that there needs to be some changes internally inside our department but we don't want it rushed to where there might be some mistakes made," said FOP President Lt. Gene Ryan.

Judge Bredar seemed satisfied with the answers to most of his questions Wednesday, and talked about another hearing late next week.

Once he signs this consent decree, the court will then have the authority to make sure all these reforms are carried out.


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