The Justice Department announced Tuesday that the Baltimore Police Department is making progress in meeting the required reforms covered in a federal consent decree.
In a joint motion the DOJ and the City of Baltimore filed a joint motion seeking court approval to declare the city and the Baltimore PD in full and effective compliance with key consent decree provisions related to the safe transportation of people in custody and officer assistance and support.
The independent monitor’s recent report on Dec. 29, 2023, found BPD in full and effective compliance with both provisions. If the court grants the motion, BPD must maintain compliance with the provisions for one year before the court can terminate these sections of the consent decree.
“We are pleased the Baltimore Police Department has successfully implemented the reforms needed to safely transport detainees in its custody,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Injuries during transport have become extremely rare, and BPD now has in place the equipment, training, policies and practices to maintain this safety record. The Justice Department is committed to collaboratively working with the Baltimore Police Department and the community to ensure constitutional, fair and nondiscriminatory policing for all Baltimore residents. The citizens of Baltimore deserve nothing less.”
The Justice Department opened a comprehensive investigation of BPD practices in 2015 after considering requests from city officials and community members in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray. The city agreed to and the court approved a consent decree in 2017 to resolve deficiencies identified by the investigation, including transport practices that placed detainees at significant risk of harm.
Since approval of the consent decree, BPD has overhauled its fleet of transportation vehicles, safety equipment, data collection mechanisms, policies and training. BPD now closely tracks information about all transports, including any injuries suffered by detainees, and during the 17-month period assessed by the court-appointed independent monitor, there were only 11 reported injuries during over 16,000 transports. Key accomplishments include:
- Safe Transport Vehicles: BPD has overhauled its transport vehicles to outfit all with necessary safety equipment.
- Improved Video Recording Equipment: BPD has completed the installation of required video recording equipment and conducts and documents monthly inspections to confirm that the equipment is functioning.
- Proper Searches of Detainees: BPD has adopted policies that require searches of detainees by both the arresting officer and the transporting officer to protect the safety of the detainee during transport.
- Improved Data Collection: BPD has implemented a new records management system to streamline data collection, analysis and review. BPD now tracks important data, like whether a detainee reported an injury or medical distress, needed to be transported with individuals of the same sex or gender identity or required an accommodation for their medical equipment. The new software enables real time compliance assessment, which BPD can use to inform policy changes and identify training needs.
- Enhanced Auditing: BPD has developed an audit process to examine transport of detainees. The audit unit reviews the documentation and video recordings to determine the transporting officer’s compliance with policy. Violations of BPD policy constitute misconduct and result in referrals to BPD’s internal affairs unit for investigation.
BPD has also devoted significant resources to officer assistance and support, another area found to be deficient in the department’s investigation, including creating an Officer Safety and Wellness Section within BPD, partnering with an employee assistance program to provide mental health and wellness servicers for officers and their families and establishing a network of peer support teams within BPD. Over the past few years, more than 10% of officers have consistently used the employee assistance program, with 31% using it in 2021.
The consent decree, as well as additional information about the Civil Rights Division, are available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/special-litigation-section-cases-and-matters.