When the city of Baltimore reached its agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on the terms of a legally binding consent decree, one of the things the city promised to do was make improvements to its Civilian Review Board, an independent oversight committee made up of city residents.
There’s just one problem: There is no Civilian Review Board. Because of normal administrative turnover and term expirations, all seats on the board have been vacant since Catherine Pugh took over as mayor, and City Paper reports that it may be a while before new members are put in place.
There are already screened applications sitting in the mayor’s office for review. Jill Carter, director of the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, told City Paper that her office screened the applications and made recommendations for new members to Pugh’s office about a month ago. The applications are reportedly in the process of being approved.
She said that her office worked hard to do a thorough job of making sure that the right people were recommended to end up on the board.
“We screened them, we interviewed them, we did many background checks,” Carter said. “I was told that they were likely going to go with all our recommendations. I’m hoping and praying they go with our people.”
Carter’s goal is to have a diverse pool of people representing different ages, races and backgrounds as well as each police district.
City Paper reports that there have been other problems with the application process:
Ralikh Hayes, coordinator for activist group Baltimore Bloc, said that he submitted an application to be a member, then was later told he had to resubmit—but was given only 24 hours to do resubmit.
“I submitted my application via email to the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement. I submitted it, it was reviewed, and Jill sent her decisions to the mayor,” Hayes said. “Someone in Bloc was told that everything was on hold pending the consent decree. When that was signed, the mayor decided to completely relaunch and reformat how the mayor’s office operates.”
He was busy and didn’t have time to make the other deadline, though three other Bloc members did.
In an email to City Paper, Anthony McCarthy, communications director for Pugh, said that there is “no delay,” but this process takes a long time. He said the Civilian Review Board is a priority for the mayor, and the goal is to name new members before the next meeting.
That doesn’t leave the mayor’s office much time. The next Civilian Review Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 20.
Carter said that the mayor’s office told her that notification letters for new members “are being sent.”
Pugh was sworn in as mayor on Dec. 6, 2016. The city of Baltimore reached the agreement with the Justice Department in January.
The consent decree was approved April 7 by U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, who said in his ruling that the need for oversight was “urgent” and noted the number of city residents who had testified before him just one day prior and said that they had lost faith in the city’s police force.
Now a huge part of rebuilding that faith and trust lies at the feet of the city’s mayor. Here’s to hoping she gets the job done.
Read more at City Paper.