The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has been fulfilling the terms of its federal consent decree stemming from the in-custody death of Freddie Gray that sparked riots and Black Lives Matter protests in the Maryland city nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Tuesday.
The DOJ’s announcement followed its filing of a motion on Tuesday that paves the way for BPD to be completely free of its content decree if it maintains its current trajectory of complying with the terms of the agreement signed in 2017.
“We are pleased the Baltimore Police Department has successfully implemented the reforms needed to safely transport detainees in its custody,” Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Injuries during transport have become extremely rare, and BPD now has in place the equipment, training, policies and practices to maintain this safety record. The Justice Department is committed to collaboratively working with the Baltimore Police Department and the community to ensure constitutional, fair and nondiscriminatory policing for all Baltimore residents. The citizens of Baltimore deserve nothing less.”
Baltimore signed an agreement with the federal government in April 2017 pledging to enact a range of policing reforms, including community oversight and retraining. The consent decree arose from a scathing 2016 DOJ report that uncovered systemic racial bias and excessive force in the police department. The probe found that Baltimore police regularly violate the constitutional rights of Black residents, in particular, through the use of unlawful searches and arrests as well as racial discrimination, drawing attention to the long-held grievances of the city’s Black community about law enforcement practices.
Gray, 25, sustained severe spinal cord injuries while being transported in a police van after the driver failed to secure him in a seat belt and neglected to call a medic when Gray requested help as part of a larger coverup effort surrounding the death. Gray was arrested in West Baltimore and loaded into a police van on April 12, 2015. He was found unconscious in the rear of the vehicle before he died a week later.
None of the six officers involved, arrested and charged for Gray’s death were ever convicted.
But the issues within BPD have been and continue to be adequately addressed, the DOJ says.
“Since approval of the consent decree, BPD has overhauled its fleet of transportation vehicles, safety equipment, data collection mechanisms, policies and training,” the DOJ said in a press release. “BPD now closely tracks information about all transports, including any injuries suffered by detainees, and during the 17-month period assessed by the court-appointed independent monitor, there were only 11 reported injuries during over 16,000 transports.”
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