I am committed to steadfast police reform.
Friday Dec 30th, 2016
I know there are concerns about the status of the city's police reform negotiations with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and what the forthcoming presidential administration change means for Baltimore's consent decree. Ensuring that every single citizen feels safe and secure in his or her neighborhood is the single most important objective of my administration. Rest assured, I am committed to steadfast police reform.
With less than two weeks as mayor, I am being asked to sign an agreement that has yet to reach my desk. Let me be clear, when I walked into this office, there was no DOJ agreement on my desk to be signed, and as of today there is still not a final agreement. There is, however, a process in place that requires the city and the Department of Justice to negotiate an agreement before I sign the final consent decree. Last week, I observed those negotiations so that I could be assured that we were moving forward and that the environment was productive — and it is.
The city has been presented with several areas for negotiation. In a relatively short period of time, we have gone through about half of the DOJ proposals. It's important to remember that this consent decree will impact the city's operations for at least a decade, therefore, the stakes are too high to get it wrong.
All things considered, it is important to put the negotiation timeline into context. While the DOJ released its findings report on Aug. 10, the city did not receive any sections of a draft consent decree from DOJ until Sept. 29th.
Consent decree negotiations are extraordinarily complex and in other jurisdictions have taken well over a year to complete. It has been only four months since the release of the findings report, and just a week since my office received a rough draft of all the proposed sections that the DOJ and the city are using to provide me with a document that I can in fact sign.
Baltimore's case is particularly challenging because of both the size of our police department (the 8th largest in the nation) and the scope of the findings report (at 163 pages, among the longest ever). Comparatively, the City of Ferguson, with a police department of less than 60 officers, took 13 months after the release of its findings report to reach a consent decree with DOJ. In New Orleans, with a police department half the size of BPD, the consent decree negotiation process took 16 months.
I take police reform seriously, and I share the same sense of urgency the community feels to have an agreement in place in short order. I have directed our negotiating team to be diligent in their negotiations and to work toward bringing forward a consent decree agreement before there is a change in administration at the presidential level.