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Police monitor finalists answer public's questions

P. Kenneth Burns

Earlier this year, Baltimore entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice to reform the city police department. As part of the agreement, an independent monitor will keep track of the changes made and report publicly on the progress.

Tuesday night, the city hosted the first of two forums where community members could hear from the four finalists considered for monitors.

WYPR's Matt Tacka and Rachel Baye discuss what happened at the forum and the process for selecting the monitor.

MATT TACKA: Who is being considered for the monitor?

RACHEL BAYE: At this point, the four finalists are the law firm Venable and three consulting firms: Exiger, Powers Consulting Group and CNA Consulting.

Each organization has proposed one person who would serve as the lead monitor, as well as a team of people to support the monitor. Everyone on the proposed monitor teams has relevant expertise. There are lawyers, including former prosecutors and defense attorneys; former police officers and academic experts.

TACKA: How does the selection process work?

BAYE: The city has already narrowed the pool of applicants to these four firms based on written applications and interviews. On Tuesday night, community members asked the finalists questions, and people who go to another forum Wednesday night at Morgan State University will have another chance to ask more questions.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said city and DOJ officials are gauging the community’s response to each answer the finalists give at the forums this week. Members of the public can also submit written comments until Aug. 23 to help shape the final decision, and then the city and the DOJ will each choose who they want. Ultimately, the judge overseeing the consent decree will make the final decision.

TACKA: What themes emerged at the first forum on Tuesday night?

BAYE: People wanted to know how the monitor would hold police accountable and how the teams would engage the city’s diverse communities in the process.  

But there was also some tension between what the community members wanted to hear from these potential monitors and the role the monitor would actually play.

For example, one woman asked CNA Consulting how they plan to prosecute police officers who commit wrongdoing. The firm then explained that the monitor won’t have that power — that the ability to prosecute crimes will remain with the Office of the State’s Attorney. The monitor will have oversight over police accountability, including the police department’s internal investigations.

TACKA: It sounds like the monitor will have limited control over the police reforms.

BAYE: Pugh explained the monitor’s role this way:  “What we intend to monitor has already been mapped out in the consent decree. So what these individuals who are hired by the Department of Justice will do is make sure that the consent decree is adhered to.”

The monitor will be charged with interpreting how the police is supposed to be implementing the consent decree to the extent that something is left up to interpretation. If the monitor thinks the police department isn’t meeting the requirements, the police department could remain under court supervision for longer.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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