BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Significant changes are coming to the Baltimore Police Department following the indictments of a specialized squad of plainclothes officers.
The commissioner is ordering that more officers wear uniforms. Police are making a major organizational change by putting plainclothes officers back in uniform.
“We know some of the horror stories from the past. When you go through a change and go through a shock value as we saw last week, some tough decisions have to be made,” says Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith.
This impact 7 sergeants, 3 lieutenants and 36 officers, with police stressing none of them are accused of any wrongdoing.
Penn-North community activist Erica Alston-Buck is praising the move.
“Now we know you are a cop, now it looks suspicious if you’re taking him around the corner,” says Alston-Buck. “It lends an opportunity for us to know who the cops are.”
A Department of Justice investigation found numerous civil rights complaints over the years against plainclothes units.
More than 10 years ago some members of a unit known as the Flex Squad were accused of planting drugs and other violations, they were ultimately acquitted but not before police brass disbanded the unit.
“That’s not new stuff, that’s historically–traditionally, it’s been in the system for a very long time. So this is the first step that’s gonna take some work to change how police are policing in Baltimore,” says Alston-Buck.
Police say there will still be undercover units, the Auto Theft Task Force–squads that involve federal agents and Warrant Apprehension will remain on the streets and that putting more officers in full uniform is not a sign they’re going soft on crime.
“Don’t think because they’re not in uniform they’re not going to be effective and go after you if you continue to commit crime in the city of Baltimore,” Smith says.