The U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement on a court-enforceable consent decree that will bring sweeping reforms to the Baltimore Police Department.
The Justice Department made the full 227-page consent decree available on its website and states that its purpose is to “ensure that the city and BPD protect individuals’ statutory and constitutional rights, treat individuals with dignity and respect, and promote public safety in a manner that is fiscally responsible and responsive to community priorities.”
The agreement calls for, among other things, a community oversight task force, improved community policing and community engagement, and an independent federal monitor to observe the department.
Officers in the department will be encouraged to have more voluntary contact with members of the community in order to enhance communication and build trust and understanding. Investigatory stops or detentions (nonvehicle stops) will be prohibited unless reasonable suspicion exists that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime.
An important additional requirement is that all vans used to transport people in custody must have functional video recorders turned on for the entire time the detainee is in the vehicle.
As previously reported on The Root, 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 BPD has engaged in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices for years, many of which disproportionately have affected residents in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. In lieu of an immediate lawsuit to resolve the problems, the Justice Department agreed to negotiate with the city and reach a consent decree.
The agreement now awaits approval by a U.S. District Court judge before it becomes binding.
Read more at the U.S. Department of Justice.