The Baltimore Police Department’s top brass, along with lawyers for the city and the US Department of Justice were in the federal courtroom of Judge James Bredar Thursday. They spoke about the progress they’re making – and the challenges before them - in meeting the terms of federally mandated reforms.
In the second hearing on the consent decree, Judge Bredar asked pointed questions and made recommendations about how the police department could move more swiftly to fix some problems.
“I suggest the Baltimore Police Department look inward and identify those parts of the consent decree that can be changed now,” he said.
He said he expected the consent decree’s monitoring team and the Department of Justice to report back about “micro” changes as well as those that address the structural issues of the institution.
“We’re trying to build a foundation that will survive long after we’re gone,” he said.
One city lawyer spoke of the new policies that are in the works. He pointed out that a new stop and frisk policy was established in July 2016.
But Judge Bredar said that didn’t prevent what appears to him to be stop and frisk problems or violations in the Harlem Park neighborhood immediately after the death of Detective Sean Suiter on duty last fall.
A recent monitoring team report found that officers stopped civilians without probable cause and restricted access to a large area around the crime scene for days after the shooting.
Policy wasn’t the problem there, he said, the problem was with the implementation of that policy.
There are no exceptions to the constitutional amendments that protect citizens from being illegally searched, Judge Bredar said. “When one of your brothers in arms has been shot in the line of duty,” he told police, “that’s when the rubber meets the road.”