Two OSI-Baltimore grantees, Baltimore Action Legal Team (BALT) and No Boundaries Coalition are taking an active role in the consent decree between Baltimore City Police (BPD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) by releasing sets of recommendations.
According to their press release, BALT’s recommendations, which were drafted by a group of volunteer lawyers, include an “end to stop-and-frisks in Baltimore, changes to BPD’s use of force policies, the implementation of restorative practices to address past harms done by BPD to city residents, 1st Amendment trainings, and a requirement that the monitoring team include impacted individuals from the city.” The recommendations also contain a section specifically dedicated to the “circumstances of young people in Baltimore,” which include disbanding the city school’s police force and ending the practice of the questioning of children by police without an attorney present.
BALT maintains that the issues addressed in the recommendations are a result of “centuries of state-sponsored violence” that is “codified in our legal system.” Developing solutions,said BALT co-founder Jenny Egan, “requires federal, state, and local government action to effectively remedy past harms and prevent a continued pattern of state and police violence.”
No Boundaries Coalition has developed The People’s Decree of Central West Baltimore, which calls on the BPD to develop more civilian oversight and create an accountability office to investigate claims of constitutional rights violations. The office would be staffed by investigators and lawyers.
“The current structures for accountability aren’t working,” Rebecca Nagle, one of the leaders of the coalition said in a recent interview. The new office would investigate a range of instances of potential rights violations, from excessive police stops to claims of planted or destroyed evidence by police. The staff would not include anyone previously on the BPD payroll.
In August, the Department of Justice published the findings of an extensive investigation into the “patterns or practice” of the BPD, launched in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray. The report concluded that that BPD engaged in “a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.” Baltimore City and the DOJ will now negotiate a legally-binding consent decree that will mandate reforms within the BPD. OSI-Baltimore has strongly encouraged community involvement in the development of the consent decree. Recently, we hosted a forum led by representatives from the DOJ that included both BALT and No Boundaries Coalition. In February, OSI-Baltimore convened a strategy session which brought together local activists and stakeholders with their counterparts in other cities to discuss the role of community engagement in consent decrees.