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Baltimore, Justice Department closing in on agreement over policing reforms

Kevin Rector and Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice have concluded months of negotiations over a raft of city policing reforms that will be court enforced as part of a formal consent decree, Mayor Catherine Pugh's office said Wednesday.

The agreement still must be signed by both sides, Pugh said, and approved by a U.S. District Court judge before becoming binding. It has not been made public.

"We're very, very close," Pugh said. "We're going to get it done."

Pugh called a Thursday morning meeting of the city's spending panel to accept the consent decree. The city's five-member Board of Estimates must approve all city spending of more than $25,000.

An agenda outline for the meeting, posted on the city's website Wednesday, noted the agreement "will be funded through the City's and BPD's annual budgeting and appropriations," but that the "timing and scope of the required funds" still must be determined by the court.

Members of the public will be allowed to comment on the agreement during the board meeting.

The consent decree is expected to mandate changes to a range of policing policies, tactics and operations -- including how officers conduct street enforcement, respond to sexual assault complaints, and interact with youths, protesters and those with mental illnesses.

It is also expected to require the police department to introduce new layers of oversight for officers, new methods of tracking misconduct and other data, new training, and major investments in modern technologies -- including mobile computers in patrol vehicles -- to streamline operations and enhance data retention and analysis.

It is also expected to touch on community policing policies, community oversight and transparency.

The Justice Department has not responded to requests for comment on the status of the negotiations on Wednesday.

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