Baltimore, U.S. Justice Department reach accord on police reform

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By Ian Simpson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Justice Department and
Baltimore officials have reached a deal for sweeping reforms to
the majority-black city’s police department after a federal
review found officers routinely violated residents’ civil
rights, officials said on Wednesday.

Baltimore, which was torn by rioting in 2015 over the death
of a black man in police custody, and the Justice Department had
been in talks for months over reforms to the 2,600-officer
department that would be overseen by an independent monitor.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Mayor Catherine Pugh will
hold a news conference in Baltimore on Thursday about the
decree, Pugh’s office said, without giving details.

The 2015 death of Freddie Gray was one of a series of
incidents in U.S. cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to North
Charleston, South Carolina, since 2014 that raised questions
about racial discrimination by U.S. law enforcement and fueled
the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Pew Research Center study released on Wednesday showed a
wide gap between police and the public’s attitudes on race and
violence. Some two-thirds of officers said they viewed the
killings of unarmed black men as isolated incidents while 60
percent of the general public said they pointed to a broader
systemic problem.

The Baltimore Board of Estimates, a financial control panel
including Pugh, said the agreement will ensure that the
Baltimore Police Department “promotes public safety in a manner
that is responsive to community priorities, treats individuals
with dignity and respect, and protects their constitutional
rights and is fiscally responsible.”

The agreement must be approved by a federal judge.

A scathing Justice Department report released in August
found that black residents were regularly subjected to stops as
pedestrians and motorists, arrests, strip searches and excessive
force in violation of U.S. constitutional rights and federal
anti-discrimination laws.

Before the report, the police department had revised more
than two dozen procedures, including changes in policies,
training, a body-camera program and guidelines on the use of

Baltimore officials had expected to spend between $5 million
and $10 million a year to implement that agreement, based on a
legal framework in place when the report was released.

The report found that police stopped black residents three
times as often as white residents. Sixty-three percent of
Baltimore residents are black, but the report found blacks faced
86 percent of charges by police.

Baltimore prosecutors charged six officers for Gray’s death,
but none were convicted.

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