BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore continues to confront a cycle of violent crime under by a police department in need of reform, according to U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar.

Bredar made his comments during a virtual hearing about the Baltimore consent decree on Jan. 20. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Deputy Commissioner Jim Gillis, Baltimore City Police chief legal counsel Lisa Walden, Deputy Commissioner Michael Sullivan, and Michael Bromwich among others participated in the virtual hearing.

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Bromwich led an independent report into the corrupt actions of the Gun Trace Task Force on behalf of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, which was made public on Jan. 13. The 500-plus page report examined the damage done to the Baltimore Police Department by the task force’s corrupt officers: Wayne Jenkins, Momodu Gondo, Jemell Rayam, Daniel Hersl, Marcus Taylor, Maurice Ward, Evodio Hendrix, and Thomas Allers.

The eight members of the task force used their positions to steal money, plant evidence, and commit a vast array of crimes. Six of them pleaded guilty to various charges.

Harrison said that misconduct was made possible by “large-scale systemic problems within the agency.” He said he intends to address those issues.

The Baltimore Police Department agreed with all of the report’s recommendations and is in the process of implementing them or on a path toward implementing them, Harrison said.

“Culture change in the agency is necessary to prevent corruption,” he said.

The department must be managed with the right systems of accountability so that it does not create an environment that could lead to another GTTF, Harrison said.

“Lessons deeply learned during court supervision under the consent decree supported by the evidence, made plain by this Bromwich report, will hopefully permanently break this institutional behavioral cycle that has previously left Baltimore with both high crime and a corrupt police department,” Bredar said.

To this day, the city continues to be marred by violence that is “beyond the pale,” he said.

“There’s every danger that Baltimore will fall right back into the bad habit of ignoring corruption and sacrificing internal integrity in service of a future strategy to crack down on and solve violent crime,” Bredar said.

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Bromwich has urged the department to use anonymous reports as a means of keeping tabs of newbie police recruits with the potential to partake in corrupt activities. Their fellow recruits could flag anger-management issues or impulse-control issues that may have gone unnoticed by a trainer.

Recruitment and retention remain a problem for the Baltimore Police Department, he said.

“The department has to establish processes for background investigations that are followed in every case,” Bromwich said. “Standards can’t be lowered just because there’s an urgent need . . . as with many other police departments in the country right now, to bring people on board and to compensate for attrition.”

Hassan Aden, the deputy monitor for Baltimore’s consent decree, said his team was pleased with how the police department has been trying to identify some of the issues affecting the hiring and retention of sworn officers and civilian members.

“We on the monitoring team are very comfortable with the way that it is progressing,” he said.

The department’s effort to understand its retention problems is “impressive,” he said.

“You can know the numbers of people going into the organization and people coming out of the organization,” he said. “But if you don’t understand the—what’s causing this or what maybe some of the stovepipes are within the process, then it’s just sort of a prolonged—you’re just running blind and hoping for numbers. So, this is significant”

The Fraternal Order of Police noted last year that officers were leaving the Baltimore Police Department due to working conditions and the anti-policing climate. The local police union said in a social media post on Twitter in April 2021 that 81 officers had left the department that year “outpacing last year.”

Following the consent decree hearing, the union took to Twitter to decry the police department’s inability to reduce the city’s violence.

“Spiraling out of control! 5 homicides and 6 shootings in the last 24 hours. 21 homicides for 2022 & 40 shootings,” the union said on its Twitter account. “So far this month @BaltimorePolice lost 20 more cops than have been hired. Add to 2021 & we have lost 125 more than we hired in 13 months. #600copsshort @MayorBMScott.”

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The city continues to confront high-profile murders. Baltimore Officer Keona Holley was shot while working an overnight shift in South Baltimore last December. Safe Streets worker DeShawn McGrier was one of four people gunned down in East Baltimore on Wednesday.

CBS Baltimore Staff