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The DOJ report – What happens RIGHT now?

The Department of Justice’s 163 page report describes officers and sergeants acting as if they had a blank check to do whatever they wanted in the inner city neighborhoods; using unreasonable force against people who represented little or no threat, making warrantless arrests without probable cause, conducting illegal strip searches, sometimes in public.

Soon the DOJ, the city, the police department, and community leaders will get to work on the court-ordered mandatory consent decree that’s should be finalized November 1.

Officials say it will take several years for real police reform to take shape.

But that’s not good enough for Tawanda Jones, whose brother, Tyrone West, died during an altercation with police in 2013.

"They’re saying it could take years," she said during a weekly demonstration against police brutality last Wednesday.  She worries that that the officers cited in the report are still on the streets, a chilling thought to her.

"Meanwhile, people are getting brutally murdered," she said. "So, if it takes 3-5 years for them to actually be able to step up, how many more bodies?"

At the DOJ news conference, WYPR asked if the Baltimore Police Department would be "cleaning house."  Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he already fired six officers in 2016 and that he "will continue to hold officers accountable."

Davis said there are a few “bad apples” in the department and they’re a disgrace to the men and women who serve the force proudly. But the justice department said there are systemic deficiencies in the BPD.

It’s unclear, however, whether the police department will be able to get the names of the officers cited in the report and hold them accountable.

A DOJ official said they would share the information with the Baltimore police "if requested". Police spokesman TJ Smith said police officials requested the names last Wednesday and that they are “in conversation” with justice officials.

On Friday, Delegate Jill Carter said during a legislative Black Caucus news conference that every Baltimore politician is responsible for the conduct of the police department.

"If we’re part of the political establishment that allowed these practices, we’re guilty," she said. "If you’ve been the mayor of Baltimore or a member of the city council while all this was going on – you’re guilty."

Rev. Kevin Slayton, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church

  Reverend Kevin Slayton, pastor of the New Waverly United Methodist Church and a civil rights activist, says there’s enough guilt to go around.

"One of the first things we need to be in pursuit of is a formal apology," he said. "Without an apology, the healing process cannot begin."

Slayton compared the lack of action by police, others in power, and every Baltimorean who doesn’t live in the inner city to what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called "a silent betrayal."

"We all watched this happen and we said nothing."

A few miles away, a sign in front of the New Waverly United Methodist Church, just across the street from the tidy well-to-do Belvedere Square read, "traffic violations shouldn’t equal death sentences". 

Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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