By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Twenty-six teams have applied to be an independent monitor over police reforms in Baltimore.

This was a requirement laid out by the Department of Justice after an investigation revealed deep rooted problems in the police department.

Whichever group is chosen, it will be expected to take the concerns of the community and ensure Baltimore police are holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to reforming the department.

The consent decree between Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice set aside nearly $1.5 million per year to pay for a monitoring team.

The applicant list was provided by Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office. The applicants include top law and consulting firms from across the country, and former prosecutors, judges and elected officials.

The monitor will oversee the implementation of the agreement, which mandates improvements such as additional training for officers. It also overhauls the way the department handles encounters with mentally ill residents and with sexual assault cases.

Chad Curlett is part of a group that applied for the position.

“The job of the monitoring team is to ensure the police department is in compliance with the consent decree. So the monitor essentially functions as a reporter to the court,” he said.

Applications came in from across the country. The mayor has expressed confidence in the process.

“What we’ve put in place is what we believe will help to change what people have talked about in their testimonies,” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

In Sandtown where Freddie Gray lived, some community organizations have already reached out to the groups that applied to be police. They said they want to ensure that the community’s concerns are being heard.

“People want to see change. We see a small change. I think the trick to actually keeping the community engaged is to make sure that process is open to them, ” said Ray Kelly of the No Boundaries Coalition.

The City agreed to make changes in the police department after a DOJ report revealed a culture of discriminatory practices.

Including officers who used excessive force or initiated unlawful stops.

Curlett said he’s a Baltimorean who applied for the job because he loves the City.

“What I would like to see is a public perception that the abuses and the violations of civil rights that have been carried out by certain police officers and the police department over the past many years are a thing of the past,” he said.

Catherine Pugh released the following statement:

“I am pleased by both the number and the caliber of applicants interested in serving as the independent monitor for Baltimore’s Consent Decree with the United States Department of Justice. This is one of the most important steps forward as we continue our efforts to reform and improve our police department in order to create the kind of law enforcement agency that effectively serves the citizens of Baltimore. We will be moving quickly to vet the applicants and to have someone in place at the earliest opportunity.”

Applications came from states like Arizona, New York, California and Maryland. The mayor did not announce exactly when a decision will be made.

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(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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