Baltimore Police Face Oversight Under Settlement

BALTIMORE (CN) — The U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore reached a settlement Thursday that will usher in reforms for a police department that came under fierce scrutiny after the death of Freddie Gray.

“The reforms in this consent decree will help ensure effective and constitutional policing, restore the community’s trust in law enforcement and advance public and officer safety,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced this morning.

The changes laid out in the 227-page document include the creation of a Community Oversight Task Force, new recruitment and training policies, video recording during prisoner transport, new procedures for the treatment of sexual crimes, and a consistent disciplinary system for officers accused of misconduct.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who chairs the Baltimore City delegation, spoke about the cost of the overhaul.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be very, very expensive – I think $30 million or more to implement many of the changes,” said Conway.

The Democrat noted that persuading Maryland to help pay shoulder the cost of the DOJ-mandated reforms will be a top priority for the delegation.

Thursday’s settlement comes five months after the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released the results of a year-long investigation it opened after the funeral of Freddie Gray sparked violent protests across the city.

The report outlined serious charges against the department, saying its toxic culture and deficient policies had the effect “conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law.”

Gray, 25, suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in 2015 while being transported by police. Six officers were charged for various crimes, and three stood trial although none were convicted.

“We need to move on, we need to move forward, we need to rectify many of the police abuses,” Sen. Conway said.

A federal judge must still decide whether to approve Thursday’s decree, after which a monitor will be selected to oversee the police department.

Mayor Catherine Pugh, sworn in less than a month ago, spoke about the settlement at a joint news conference this morning with Lynch and other officials.

“I want Baltimore to be the model other police departments look to as an example of the changes that can be made,” said Pugh.

Also at the conference was Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We have come a long, long way,” Gupta said.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis described the settlement as creating “a path forward, a roadmap to the future.”

“It is a journey we are proud to be part of,” Davis added.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has investigated 25 law-enforcement agencies over civil-rights abuses during the past seven years. Baltimore’s is one of 14 investigations to end in consent decrees. The department is enforcing an additional 19 agreements with law-enforcement agencies.

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