The city of Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice have come to terms on policing reforms that will be part of a formal consent decree pending approval by the city’s spending panel Thursday. A U.S. District Court judge will also have to approve the consent decree before it becomes binding, the Baltimore Sun reports. The terms of the decree have not yet been made public.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday morning, “We’re very, very close. We’re going to get it done.”
The decree follows a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department, partially in response to the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent civil unrest in Baltimore.
A 163-page findings report released by the DOJ in August said that the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices for years, many of which disproportionately affected residents in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.
As the Sun reports, in lieu of an immediate lawsuit to resolve the problems, the Justice Department agreed to negotiate with the city and reach a consent decree that ensured the Police Department “delivers services in a manner that respects the rights of residents, increases trust between officers and the communities they serve, and promotes public and officer safety.”
A consent decree is a type of settlement in a lawsuit or criminal case in which a person or company agrees to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit. In this instance, the BPD is not admitting any guilt or wrongdoing, but it is agreeing to make the recommended reforms to a range of its policies, tactics and operations.
According to the Sun, these include how officers conduct street enforcement; respond to sexual assault complaints; and interact with youths, protesters and those with mental illnesses.
Additionally, the decree is expected to require the department to introduce new layers of oversight for officers; new methods of tracking officer misconduct and other data; new training; and investments in modern technologies that would add mobile computers in patrol cars, streamline operations, and enhance data retention and analysis.
Most importantly, it is expected to touch on community policing, community oversight and transparency.
The agreement comes a little more than a week before the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20, which is key, because as the Sun notes, current Justice Department officials and city leaders set that date as the deadline to get the deal done amid fears that Trump and his pick for U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, would be less exacting “overseers” of troubled police departments than current Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Barack Obama.
Pugh called a Thursday-morning meeting of the city’s spending panel to approve the decree, and members of the public will be allowed to comment on the agreement during that meeting.
Read more at the Baltimore Sun.