By Mike Hellgren


BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City’s Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced new policies covering officers’ use of force. They went into effect on Sunday.

They are the first regulations that meet the approval of the Department of Justice as part of Baltimore’s consent decree with the federal government.

 

“These new policies will go a long way to helping us rebuild trust with the community,“ Commissioner Harrison said. “For that reason, their importance cannot be overstated.“

 

Harrison said the policies focus on de-escalation techniques.

 

“This is a major cultural shift for our police department,” he said.

 

Officers went through training online and at least 16 hours of training in person.

 

“When we show up to an encounter, we want to take time, create distance and build rapport,” Deputy Commissioner Danny Murphy said. “I think you’re going to find departments across the nation looking to Baltimore… as a model moving forward.“

 

The consent decree was negotiated during the Obama administration after an investigation into the department following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. It found Baltimore police officers discriminated against African American citizens, repeatedly used excessive force and were not adequately held accountable for misconduct.

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The Trump administration initially said it had grave concerns about the consent decree, but the commissioner told WJZ the Department of Justice under Trump worked productively with the department on the new policies.

 

“We met every single month, and we’ve been together in a public hearing in court every quarter. They have been right there overseeing the process of policy creation and approval and training and the approval of that training,“ Commissioner Harrison said.

 

The policies are all available on the BPD’s website.

According to Deputy Commissioner Murphy, the next policies to be revamped include those governing arrests, stops and searches. Those new policies will go into effect in January 2020.

 

“This is a milestone,” the commissioner said. Harrison was brought to Baltimore in part because he successfully implemented a consent decree in New Orleans.

 

Four people have been killed in encounters with BPD officers in 2019.

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