Baltimore Police Department Consent Decree


Consent of decree in the US law refers to a formal legal judgment which defines an agreement that has been reached by two sides especially in a specific legal case. This mostly entails one side accepting to terminate legal action if certain things are carried out by the other side. Consent of decree is mostly used in enforcement of federal civil antitrust and it has proven to an effective enforcement tool in forcing the involved parties to make changes and live within the rule of the law (Flynn1968).In this case the consent of decree involved the police misconduct. Although the huge number of the law enforcement officer in the nation do their very complex jobs with regard for their communities and in submission with the law. This paper focuses on preparing the US Department of Justice consent of decrees and agreements to the Chief of the Virtual Police Department.  The main purpose of this presentation is to make the chief understand circumstance under which a police department is forced to a decree with intention of determining if Virtual Police Department is at risk of being given one and how the department can avoid such circumstances.

Description of the Situation

This paper is based on consent decree given to Baltimore Police Department in Maryland. Baltimore was given consent of decree by the Department of Justice the investigative research conducted on the Baltimore police behavior revealed that the Baltimore City Police Department takes part in a practice and pattern of conduct which violates the 14th, Fourth and First Constitution Amendment and federal anti-discrimination laws. Baltimore Police Department (BPD) investigation began in May 2015 and the findings were announce by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in August 2016. In the DOJ report, it was established that the BPD made arrests, searches and stops without the needed justification. They were said to have applied enforcement approaches which illegally exposed African Americans to unequal rates of arrests, searches, and stops. They were also found to react against persons for expressions that are constitutionally-protected. The practice or pattern yielded from systematic deficits which persisted in the BPD for a number of years and aggravated police distrust by the community, especially in Black American community. The decree was therefore initiated by police misconduct. The police are required to enforce the law, while respecting the constitution of the country which safeguards the rights of the citizens. Failure to do this they kill the trust that the public has in them (Department of Justice, 2017).

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The BPD and city leadership in October 2014, requested to get into a collaborative process of reform with the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office in DOJ. The practice-or-pattern investigation was opened by Civil Rights Division in May 2015, after which the Justice Programs Office in the DOJ and COPS office continued to provide federal resources that include technical assistance to the community leaders, city officials and the BPD. The investigation carried out proved that Baltimore police were engaged conduct which deprived Baltimore people of the protections and rights guaranteed to them by the American constitution and the deeply-rooted distrust enacted by the Baltimore community toward law enforcement officers harms all individuals who live in the city. Following these finding it was very relevant for the DOJ to get into a court-enforceable agreement with the Baltimore city to address the violations identified in the carried out investigation (Department of Justice, 2017).

Provisions of the Consent Decree

The consent decree demanded that the BPD and the city of Baltimore should instrument comprehensive reforms to terminate the Baltimore legacy of zero tolerance policing. The BPD is expected to empower its police officer to engross positive, community-based policing. The reforms should be effectively implemented to restore advance public and officers’ safety as well as restoring community trust toward the police officers. The BPD and the Baltimore city will instrument comprehensive reforms which will guarantee that BPD embraces a community based policing approach, which is founded on principles of problem solving. Implementation should also create a community Task Force Oversight to commend reforms to today civilian oversight system. The reforms should guarantee that officers intended interactions are courteous and professional. All investigatory arrests, searches and stops, conducted by officers should be in a way that safeguards rights of the people. The BPD should offer equal legal protection for all people, including offering neutral policing services. Police officers employ suitable de-escalation attempt and techniques to resolve incidents with no force when probable. In this case, the officers should only apply force in a way that is relative to the presented threat. The BPD should therefore employ force policies, review and training system, and offer enough accountability, skills, and guidance with regarding to use of force (Department of Justice, 2017a).

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The BPD is also required to transports prisoners in a way which maintains their safety. Officers should also protect the rights of all people as provided by the first constitution amendment. They should also investigate gender related crimes such as sexual abuse comprehensively with no gender bias. BPD is also required to effectively, fairly and fully investigate employees’ misconduct allegations, and ensure that all investigative results are supported by suitable proof standards and recorded in writing. The department should also ensure that all officers that commit misconduct are served as required by the law in a consistent, fair and as provided in due process. The department is also required to analyze mental health system gap in the city and provide suitable training to its officers in handling individuals under psychological distress or behavioral disabilities. The city should also carry out assessment to reduce the involvement of youths with the criminal and juvenile justice systems and provide manner in which officer can interact with youth in age appropriate manner. The reforms are also required to facilitate the provision of necessary support, equipment, training, and policy guidance to officer to enable them to perform their work effectively and safely. A staffing study should also be conducted by BPD to guarantee enough number of supervisors and officers. These measures were anticipated to make the necessary changes in the department (Department of Justice, 2017b).

Connection of the Consent Decree Provision to the Initiating Cause

The consent of decree defines the steps that the BPD must take to restore the police dignity in the area. It clearly points out issues that must be looked at while providing the police reforms. This provision is highly based on the investigation report. According to the investigation, the police officers in Baltimore have been violating the fourth, first, and 14th constitution amendment. The fourth amendment safeguards citizens from unlawful seizures and search (Cornell Law School, 2017). Meaning the police may need a probable cause or a warrant before search a citizen, citizens’ property or before making an arrest. This has been violated and hence the consent of decree demands that BPD to ensure that all arrest, search, and seizures are done with respect to people’s rights as provided by the constitution. It advocate for the use of force that is proportional to the threat presented and nothing more.

Police were also found in the investigation to respond to people’s expressions that were protected by the constitution as per the first amendment. The first amendment provides that no law should be made by the Congress regarding religion establishment or barring the free exercise undermining the freedom of press or speech, or the people right to assemble peacefully and to petition the government for grievances redress (Cornell Law School, 2017). The consent decree demanded that the BPD should adopt a more community based policing which is based on problem solving and respect rights of all citizens as provided by the first constitution amendment. The police were also found to be more discriminative to Black Americans, violating the 14th amendment. This amendment approved citizenship to all individuals naturalized or born in the United States, including freed former slaves (Cornell Law School, 2017). This means that the rights of all individual defined as US citizens based on this amendment are protected by the constitution of the country. This made the decree to demand for equal treatment for all by the Baltimore police. The consent of decree is therefore specifically made to address police misconducts, specifically based on how they were behaving toward the public. The consent of decree is specifically created to change the police behaviors for a better police-public relationship.

What Virtual Police Department Needs to do so as to Avoid Consent Decree

Consent decree in this case involve the judicially and the law enforcement agency with the main aim being ensuring that police observe the law while enforcing it. The consent decree ensures that the police maintain a code of conduct while performing their duties. This implies that any police department whose officers are overstating their mandate and legal operational level are bound to be subjected to a consent decree.  This implies that the Virtual Police Department needs to review its officers’ conduct to determine if there are officers overstating their position as law enforcers. The review should check on how the officers go about stop, search, seizure, and arrest. The department should investigate on whether there is any of its officers who use excessive force than the presented threat and if so, a disciplinary action should be taken against them (Department of Justice, 2015).

The department should investigate on other aspects which the officers are likely to behave inappropriately. This includes how they treat minority communities, how they handle demonstrators and citizens when exercising their rights for free worship, and free expression. This general overview can be facilitated by the community interview, review of previous media reporting regarding police brutality in the area, and review of any raised complain regarding how police solve problems or respond to call from the community. This will give the department an insight on the relationship between the police and the public and decide on whether there is anything amiss that may attract a request for investigation in the department. The department should take the initiative of conducting reforms long before the intervention of the judicially. This should start by disciplining the officers involved in any identified misconduct (Department of Justice, 2012).

The department should impose disciplinary action as directed by the law and the police code of conduct governing the law enforcement agency. The department should also look at the policies loopholes that make it easy for its officers to break the law or behave in a gross manner. Development of new policies that will assist in controlling police behaviors to ensure that are within the required range should be established. A review will be required in the use of force and also in the use of firearm among others. The policies will need to ensure proper discipline measures are employed to those who use unnecessary force and those who use their guns improperly. To create effect, these individuals should be punished immediately there is enough evidence that they were involved in any of the two forms of misconduct. Thus, investigation should start immediately such cases are reported and action taken immediately after the investigation is over.The Virtual Police Department will also need to engage community in its operations. A good community reporting system should be developed to ease the process of receiving community complains. A regular survey will also be conducted assist in collecting data regarding cases of misconduct and employing the right measures to curb them (Department of Justice, 2003).

The provision of consent decree depends basically on the conduct of the police officers in the department, based on the US constitution. All police officers go through training and hence, they are well informed of how they should work professionally to safeguard the constitution of the country, without undermining it. However, they mostly behave in unacceptable manner due to many factors that include challenging working condition and exposure to stressful situation during their work. This may cause mental distress that in most cases influences their behavior. In this regard Virtual Police Department has an obligation of reviewing the officers work condition and review it. The department needs to provide its officers with the right equipment and facilities to enhance their operations. The provision of mental facility will assist in ensuring that police officers mental health has been taken care of. Provision of these facilities will highly facilitate the operation of the police officer (Department of Justice, 2015).

Just like other workers in any other organization, police officers need motivation. The Virtual Police Department will need to come up with a strategy to enhance motivation in the department. Police officers with clean conduct record should be rewarded, just as those with negative record are disciplined. This will motivate them into trending in the right direction. Constant training to promote their ability to handle different situations and different kind of people especially juvenile and individuals suffering from mental condition. This will enhance their general work efficiency and improve their conduct toward the country’s citizens. The department will also need to develop a law training program where all its officers will be assisted in understanding the constitution of the country and their requirement in law enforcement. The training will include guiding them on how to handle citizens or offenders in different circumstances. They will be trained on what law expects them to do, and what will always be regarded as misconduct (Department of Justice, 2015).

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