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Baltimore Agrees to Police Reforms Imposed by Justice Department

The agreement is "a step in the right direction to ensure accountability, transparency, and trust”

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The city of Baltimore has signed a historic consent decree with the Department of Justice that commits the city to reforming its police department. The 227-page agreement places limits on how police can engage criminal suspects and demands that officers be properly trained to deal with protesters and the mentally ill. The agreement is the end result of a 2015 DoJ probe into the Baltimore police after the tragic death of Freddie Gray in police custody. 

"I believe this document represents the citizens of Baltimore well," Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be standing here." US Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the deal “robust” and “comprehensive” but also said she is not under any "illusions that change is easy.” Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby called the agreement "a step in the right direction toward the necessary reforms to ensure accountability, transparency, and trust among our communities and law enforcement."

Under the agreement, Baltimore police are required to receive eight hours of training per year on how to work with neighborhoods and communities and how to interact with young people, the homeless, mentally ill individuals, and members of the LGBTQ community. Officers are also required to contact a supervisor before making an arrest on a minor charge, such as obstructing or resisting police, disorderly conduct, trespassing, or failure to obey an officer. Detectives investigating sexual assaults will receive additional training and oversight.

The agreement prohibits officers from using chokeholds or neck holds unless deadly force is authorized. It also outlaws frisking a person without making a case that the person is dangerous, or frisking to determine the gender of a LGBTQ person.

Cops are also banned from basing a investigatory stop or detention “only on an individual's response to the presence of police officers, such as an individual's attempt to avoid contact with an officer.” These rules may have an effect on the number of low-level marijuana arrests in the city, where 96% of those arrested for marijuana-related crimes last year were African American.