Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) recommending changes to policing in Baltimore. This letter comes days after LDF and others hosted a town hall meeting during which dozens of residents shared publicly their solutions to DOJ’s recent report finding that BPD officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing and excessive use of force against residents. The DOJ and BPD have asked for feedback on their “Agreement in Principle,” which outlines policing reforms to address the constitutional and legal violations DOJ highlighted in its report.
“The egregious and unlawful activities of BPD officers highlighted in the report spared no part of the department,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. “After hearing Baltimore residents share their struggles, pain, and solutions, there is no doubt that the BPD must be transformed. The community issued a clarion call for accountability and transformation. Now the questions DOJ, BPD, and Baltimore residents must answer are how deep that transformation will go and whether residents and stakeholders are willing to consistently engage in the process over the years to ensure that the transformation happens.”
“Everyone must remain involved in the hard work that is required to transform the BPD,” added Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and Senior Counsel at LDF. “DOJ and BPD can and should ask the federal court to order a public comment period and hearing to receive community feedback on the final consent decree before it is approved,” noted Dixon. “It is clear that community members have felt voiceless for too long. Providing an opportunity to weigh in on the agreement itself is an important good-faith step in ensuring the people of Baltimore are equal partners moving forward; this will only strengthen the agreement and community commitment to the process. This is the model that the federal court used in Ferguson, and it should be replicated in Baltimore,” Dixon concluded.
The letter acknowledges that although many of the DOJ’s findings were not surprising, they were extraordinary and astonishing, such as public strip searches of pedestrians. LDF commented that the legal violations uncovered in the DOJ report warrant a comprehensive, court-enforceable agreement that will remain in effect for multiple years to ensure that the reforms are sustainable. The letter lists over a dozen recommendations, including:
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.