How the Baltimore Police Department Avoided a Civil Rights Investigation by the U.S. Justice Department

Alex Brandon—AP Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts surveys the corner of North and Pennsylvania avenues during protests in the city on April 30, 2015.
Alex Brandon—AP
Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Anthony Batts surveys the corner of North and Pennsylvania avenues during protests in the city on April 30, 2015.

The city’s involvement in a Justice Department program shows the softer side of intervention

This story was written by Simone Weichselbaum for The Marshall Project , a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Six months before Baltimore exploded in anger at the city’s police, Justice Department officials were already busy examining the record of brutality and misconduct that had plagued the force for years.

But unlike other cities that have come under investigation by the department’s Civil Rights Division after complaints of excessive force, Baltimore, found its way into a less-onerous and adversarial Justice program that emphasizes cooperative support for local law-enforcement agencies. In fact, Baltimore requested the intervention.

That Justice program, called the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance, was created in 2011 by the department’s Office of Community Oriented Police Services, or COPS. Compared to the avenging lawyers of the Civil Rights Division, the program’s consultants might be considered the good cops.

Where the Civil Rights Division is known for filing lawsuits in the federal courts to compel recalcitrant police agencies to stop discriminatory practices or the excessive use of force, the COPS plan offers expertise and training to help change-minded police departments implement new policies on their own.

“There are 18,000 police departments in this country, and the idea that we can sue our way into reform, or put every police department under a consent decree, is just not viable,” the director of the COPS office, Ronald L. Davis, said in a telephone interview with The Marshall Project.

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Source: TIME |  @simonejwei

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