Silver Spring, MD — TODAY, Wednesday, February 28, Ben Jealous, former National President & CEO of the NAACP, released Building Trust, a comprehensive plan to help reform the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) and implement statewide reforms to address police misconduct and the killings of unarmed civilians.
Baltimore City and other jurisdictions have paid out millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards related to police misconduct. In many instances, the misconduct resulted in the death or injury to unarmed civilians.
Jealous’ plan would support reform efforts already underway within BPD, while also instituting new policies statewide that more aggressively address police misconduct and prevent the killing of unarmed civilians.
“Improving public safety begins with restoring the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities most impacted by violent crimes” said Jealous, whose grandfather spent three decades as a member of law enforcement in Baltimore City and inspired him to become a criminologist and teach criminal justice policy. “Trust becomes tattered when officers are insufficiently trained, unaccountable to civilian oversight, and when those who violate the public’s trust are too often protected by a pervasive culture of impunity.”
Jealous’ plan also seeks to reverse Larry Hogan’s hands off approach to violent crime and failure to act more aggressively in helping to reform BPD. Under Hogan’s leadership, violence has soared and community-police relations have deteriorated.
“As we saw with the Gun Trace Task Force trial, the Baltimore City Police Department is fighting it’s way through a crisis” said Jealous. “Unfortunately, we have not seen the courage and moral leadership this moment requires from Larry Hogan. Following the Freddie Gray riots, Larry Hogan failed to lead beyond photo ops and didn’t do the hard work required to help pull the City together and address the breakdown of trust between community and police, which also exists in jurisdictions outside of Baltimore. As governor, I’ll lead where Larry Hogan has failed by cracking down on police misconduct, equipping officers with better training to reduce instances of unarmed civilian deaths, and ensuring there is accountability when a few bad cops make it more difficult for the good majority of officers to do their jobs.”
Highlights of Jealous’ plan include:
- Placing Civilians on Hearing Boards for Police Misconduct
- During the disciplinary process for officers, issues are heard by a hearing board before any disciplinary action can be taken. For years these hearings have suffered from a key flaw: the hearing boards that pass judgement on officers accused of misconduct have traditionally been comprised of other officers. This undercuts the hearing board’s ability to act impartially and makes it much less likely a fellow officer is found guilty of misconduct. Allowing for civilian participation on police hearing boards can increase objectivity of the boards as well as public trust in police departments while more effectively weeding out bad actors. As governor, Jealous will work to pass hearing board reform that guarantees voting civilians form a majority on each board and that no alternative to the hearing board exists.
- Ending Nondisclosure Agreements for Police Misconduct Settlements
- Baltimore City’s last City Solicitor estimated the city used nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in 95% of civil settlements, which many in the public view as a way of silencing victims. Baltimore is virtually alone amongst major American cities in its use of NDAs for this purpose. As governor, Jealous will work to end this practice in all police misconduct settlements that occur in Maryland.
- Reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights
- Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) has become a recurring barrier to police reform, ultimately making it more difficult to identify and punish officer misconduct. As governor, Jealous will support legislation that requires all allegations of police brutality be investigated no matter the filing date and that removes the 10- day window officers have before being interviewed by investigators following an incident.
- Policing the Police Through a Special Prosecutor’s Office
- Currently, any use of deadly force by the BPD is investigated by the BPD’s Special Investigation Response Team (“SIRT”). Once the investigations conclude, the Office of the State’s Attorney (“OSA”) conducts a review of the cases in order to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against the officer(s) involved. There are two significant flaws in this approach. First, allowing officers to investigate potential misconduct on the part of fellow officers creates an opportunity for the investigation to be corrupted before a lawyer with OSA ever reviews the material. As such, the material that is passed on to the OSA may seriously misrepresent the events that occurred, making it difficult to identify let alone prosecute officer misconduct. Second, many employees at the OSA and BPD maintain a friendly relationship with one another, because successfully prosecuting alleged criminals requires cooperation between the offices. The potential coziness of BPD’s oversight body, then, presents another opportunity for corruption in use of force investigations. As governor, Jealous will create a special prosecutor’s office for Maryland with oversight of all cases of alleged police misconduct.
- Creating a Public Database for Officer Use of Force
- When it comes to use of force, BPD only creates public reports for police involved shootings. National best practices are trending toward creating reports on all instances where force was used. As governor, Jealous will push jurisdictions to adopt national best practices and will invest in technology that makes all use of force reports easily accessible and searchable for all Marylanders.
- Improving Police Officer Training
- Improving officer training can help to dramatically reduce instances of police misconduct and the killings of unarmed civilians. Nationally, programs like the California Partnership for Safe Communities, Equal Justice USA and Strong Nation have helped to better train officers and reduce harm to unarmed civilians. As governor, Jealous will facilitate a partnership between the law enforcement and subject matter experts to provide better instruction for new officers as well as continued training for department veterans to improve community relations and reduce the likelihood of police misconduct or the harming of an unarmed civilian.
- Using Psychology to Proactively Identify and Address Biased Behavior
- Aggressively rooting out biased behavior can help to reduce police misconduct or harm to unarmed civilians. As governor, Jealous will ensure the BPD and other departments statewide have the resources they need to utilize psychologists to proactively identify officers subject to situational vulnerabilities that drive behavior leading to unnecessary use of force, and create proactive training programs aimed specifically at correcting their behavior.
- Improving Use of Force Standards and Training
- BPD updated its use of force standards in 2016, representing considerable progress. However, as organizations like the ACLU have noted the department could go much further. As governor, Jealous will ensure the BPD and other departments have the resources they need to provide use of force training every 6 months and to implement improved use of force standards.
- Improving Officer Recruitment from Baltimore City
- Officer recruitment and retention, particularly from local communities is a core component for improving public safety in Baltimore City. As governor, Jealous will ensure Baltimore City has the resources to revive the Officer Friendly program, as well as to fund PALs Centers and the Police Athletic League. Additionally, Jealous will encourage the City to implement an apprenticeship program for Baltimore City high school students to enter law enforcement and provide financial incentives to increase the number of police officers native to the City.
- Getting Officers Walking the Beat
- An important part of restoring community trust and safety is the utilization of foot patrols. As governor, Jealous will ensure that Baltimore has the resources it needs to implement a detailed foot patrol plan for districts in the City prioritizing those with the highest rates of homicide, rape, home invasions or street crimes.
- Ending Overtime Fraud at BPD
- As the Gun Trace Task Force trial demonstrates, some of Baltimore’s exorbitant spending on police overtime is attributable to fraudulent reporting for unworked hours. As governor, Jealous will work with city leadership to provide resources for multiple audits each year covering every pay period to crack down on fraudulent reporting.
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