BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One year after the federal government intervened in Baltimore policing and ordered an overhaul of the department, city leaders appeared in court Friday to explain what policies and practices have changed, and what still needs to be fixed.
During the first public hearing, city leaders and lawyers explained to a federal judge, a monitoring team and U.S. Justice Department representatives how the Baltimore City Police Department is changing to fall in line with a federal consent decree that’s mandating police reform.
“We are working very diligently to make sure we comply with the consent decree,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said.
Pugh and Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa met outside the courthouse, walking in together to address the court before an all-day break down of progress toward compliance.
The first topic: how officers transport prisoners.
City attorneys say since the in-custody death of Freddie Gray — the catalyst for the decree — prisoner vans have been fitted with seatbelts and cameras.
It’s a step toward the technology changes BPD must make under the order.
“The technology is going to affect day-to-day contact because it’s going to determine who they’re in contact with and why,” Catalina Byrd of the community oversight task force.
Another change is tightening down on officer misconduct and use of force policies.
The judge spoke to both issues saying, “there’s been a lack of integrity.”
He added by April 2019, he wants the city to give a date for when it will meet federal requirements — something all sides said Friday that they’re aggressively working to accomplish.
“There’s a lot of work to do. This is a great framework, and I’ve said it plenty of times before, this is a roadmap that gets the Baltimore Police Department into a 21st-century policing department,” De Sousa said.
DOJ representatives said that Seattle was also under a consent decree and took six years to comply. They also said Baltimore has a lot more work to do than Seattle.
A second status hearing is scheduled for July.
Coincidentally, Friday’s hearing was in the same courtroom where all of the members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force were convicted of their crimes.