Consent Decree Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Baltimore Police Department's Consent Decree. Learn about the roles of the parties, how the Consent Decree benefits the community, how to get involved in the reform effort and more.
Does the Consent Decree prevent proactive policing?
No. There is nothing in the Consent Decree that stops officers from engaging in proactive constitutional enforcement.
How does the Consent Decree benefit the community?
The Consent Decree's primary purpose is to ensure that BPD protects the constitutional rights and human dignity of all community members. Every section of the Consent Decree is designed to directly and/or indirectly benefit the community and increase BPD's capacity to effectively provide public safety services to Baltimore. For example: Technological improvements to the Department increases efficiency, giving officers more time to proactively police and build relationships in the communities they serve.
It also provides an avenue for meaningful community engagement through the creation of a comprehensive Community Policing Plan and gives the community a voice in policy development, training content, and accountability mechanisms.
How does the Consent Decree benefit officers?
The Consent Decree ensures that the Department is making systematic changes that will improve efficiency and give officers the resources they need to be confident and successful on the job. New technology, enriched training, robust wellness programs, and focused recruitment and retention efforts, as well as additional reforms, are underway.
Will the Consent Decree bring back Officer Friendly and assigned posts for officers?
The Consent Decree does not require “Officer Friendly” but does require BPD to create a Community Policing Plan, train on that plan, and ensure all officers practice community policing principles.
The Consent Decree addresses civil rights violations, improved police/community relations, and a variety of other topics. Operational details, such as posts, are outside the scope of the Consent Decree. Currently, officers are assigned to specific areas, based on crime trends, so that BPD can pro-actively deter crime. Officers are encouraged to get to know the people and businesses in their assigned area, conduct foot patrols and other activities that foster relationships with the community and improve public safety.
How long will the Consent Decree last?
Consent Decrees do not have specific end dates. Before the Judge declares full-compliance and the end of federal oversight, the Department must prove that it has met the mandated reforms and that the reforms are sustainable. Other departments have taken 6 to 11 years to achieve compliance.
How will you know the changes made to policies actually work?
There are several ways to know if the reforms are working including audits and inspections, community surveys, outcome assessments and Monitoring Team compliance reviews. Each of these provides a unique ability to determine if the Department is in compliance with the Consent Decree and that the reforms required by the Consent Decree are having the desired effect.
What changes have been made to the way you train officers?
The Department has made numerous changes related to training. First, training curriculum is no longer developed in a silo, meaning the Department uses training to reinforce multiple concepts at once. For example, Use of Force training now includes information on de-escalation, police legitimacy, reporting and supervision.
Lesson Plans are also comprehensive and include feedback from community members and BPD employees.
Training delivery has also changed, from a lecture based format to an engaging, scenario-based, facilitation method using adult-learning techniques. The Department’s training facility has improved as well, no longer housed in an abandon middle-school, the Academy is now located in a modern, professional building at the University of Baltimore.
How receptive have officers been to the changes and how do you get their buy-in?
Change can be difficult to implement and understand, and some officers expressed concern over the Consent Decree requirements. But with new training and technology in place, as well as officer input in policy and curriculum development, a more positive view of the Consent Decree is common.
What happens if an officer violates a revised policy? Is there a grace period for knowing the new/revised policies?
The Department is completely restructuring our disciplinary and accountability systems so that policy violations are managed appropriately – which could be training or corrective action, coaching by a supervisor, or internal affairs investigation. Grace periods for a limited number of items might not need discipline right away (for example, when body worn cameras were first deployed, officers were given several warnings before discipline was imposed if they did not record).
How does BPD prove compliance with the Consent Decree?
Outcome assessments, compliance reviews, audits and inspections that are all shared with the DOJ/MT and Judge who will determine compliance. Compliance must be sustained and the Department must prove that the reform mechanisms put in place to ensure constitutional policing are part of BPD’s DNA/culture and won’t be ignored once the Consent Decree is over.
Stops, Searches and Arrests and Use of Force look pretty far ahead of other sections on the Compliance Progress Chart. Why do these topics have more progress than others?
One reason some areas have much more progress than others is that they are closely related to the core issues of BPD’s past pattern and practice. Stops, Searches and Arrests, Use of Force, etc. are major areas that directly impacted the protection of individuals’ civil rights in police interactions, and so those core areas received a lot of early attention.
Another reason some areas may have much more progress is that they are more within BPD’s direct control. The Department has discretion to set more rigorous, protective standards for Use of Force than the state or federal government require—and have used that discretion to create, arguably, some of the most progressive Use of Force provisions in the country. Misconduct and other sections of reform have rules and regulations that limit BPD’s ability to address policies and practices by itself. BPD doesn’t have sole control over if, how, and when a police officer can be fired. These limitations might be state laws, labor agreements, or federal regulations. BPD has to be creative and careful about how to navigate existing rules, and sometimes advocate for new rules that it believe better protects the community and its employees. That takes more time.
Will BPD be conducting its own audits to prove compliance with the Consent Decree?
Both the Monitoring Team and the Department will conduct audits and inspections. The DOJ/MT must have faith in our ability to police/audit ourselves.
Besides conducting the initial investigation, what is Department of Justice’s (DOJ) role in the Consent Decree process?
The DOJ continues to provide daily oversight through policy and training reviews as well as input into our accountability systems.
What is the Monitoring Team’s role in the Consent Decree process?
They also provide oversight in addition to technical assistance. The Monitoring Team has experts in a variety of fields, some with previous Consent Decree experience, so they provide valuable insight and feedback.
If there are changes to the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, will the Consent Decree need to be changed?
No. Individual policies may need to be revised but the paragraphs of the Consent Decree will be unaffected.
How is BPD funding the cost of the Consent Decree mandates?
Combination of city and state funding and grants.