Lynch calls for continued commitment to community policing
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on the agreement to reform Baltimore’s police department (all times local):
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is calling for a continued commitment to community policing, just days before she leaves office and a new administration takes over.
Lynch spoke Thursday at the University of Baltimore law school, about five hours after she and Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh announced a court-enforceable agreement to improve policing in Baltimore.
In her remarks, Lynch addressed a Justice Department report on community policing that she says she hopes will serve as a blueprint for restoring trust between citizens and police officers in many communities.
Lynch says the work of rebuilding those relationships cannot be completed by a single administration. And she says Baltimore can lead other cities in repairing what she calls a frayed, and even broken, trust.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says oversight and training are keys to a federal consent decree aimed at improving policing in the city.
Pugh told a news conference Thursday that the agreement requires creation of an oversight task force to ensure greater community input and engagement. She’s also highlighting the document’s training requirements, including an emphasis on de-escalation techniques to reduce the use of force by officers.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the consent decree has three main goals: effective and constitutional policing; restoring community trust in law enforcement; and advancing the safety of the public and police officers.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says officers on the street will benefit from the agreement. He says it will stand “like a mountain” to address longstanding shortcomings in the city.
The Baltimore police force has committed to sweeping policy changes as part of a court-enforceable agreement with the federal government.
The improvement plan was filed in federal court Thursday.
It is meant to require an overhaul in how police officers do their jobs, mandating improvements in stops and searches as well as arrests.
The agreement resolves months of negotiations with the Justice Department, which had identified pervasive constitutional violations.
The federal government began investigating the police department’s practices following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
The city government on Thursday approved the agreement.
Some Baltimore citizens say they want assurances that a still-confidential federal agreement to improve policing in the city ensures better relations with the community.
Three people testified Thursday before the city’s Board of Estimates voted to approve the agreement, to be made public later in the day. They commented without having been able to see the decree.
Their concerns include a lack of public participation thus far, and a desire to have police better serve vulnerable citizens and victims of sexual assaults.
Democratic City Council President Jack Young, a member of the board, says there will be a hearing to allow for public comment on the agreement before it’s approved by the court.
Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh says the Board of Estimates approval is “only the beginning” of the process.
The city of Baltimore has approved an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform its police department following the death of a young, black man fatally injured in officers’ custody.
The city’s five-member Board of Estimates voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the agreement.
Democratic City Council President Jack Young, a member of the board, said there will be a hearing to allow for public comment on the agreement before it’s approved by the court.
Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh said the document would be posted online later Thursday morning for the public to review.
Nearly two years after the death of a young black man in Baltimore police custody exposed systemic failures within the department that included excessive force, racial discrimination and illegal arrests, city officials are expected to agree with federal officials on court-enforceable reforms.
A consent decree, which will be announced at a joint news conference with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, will be filed in U.S. District Court after it’s approved by the city’s spending panel Thursday.
The agreement comes after months of negotiations between city and federal officials over how best to repair deep problems in the city’s policing, which for years violated the civil rights of some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents.