Related Case or Issue: Policing Reform Campaign
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a motion today in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to intervene in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) on behalf of Community Churches for Community Development (CCCD), a Maryland non-profit working to enhance the quality of life for Baltimore residents, and Ralph E. Moore Jr., a community leader and social worker in Baltimore. CCCD and Mr. Moore seek to join the case to ensure that the consent decree filed by the DOJ and the BPD, which included necessary reforms to address the constitutional violations the DOJ uncovered in a comprehensive investigative report issued on August 10, 2016, and input from residents of Baltimore, is accepted by the court and fully implemented. The decision to intervene follows a March 31st memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordering a review of all policing investigations and agreements, as well as the DOJ’s failed motion to postpone the public hearing on the proposed Baltimore consent decree for three months, signaling the DOJ’s apparent lack of commitment to the negotiated agreement. Attorney General Sessions is openly hostile to consent decrees as remedies to civil rights and constitutional violations. The DOJ’s filing also follows the issuance of executive orders by the Trump Administration signaling profound changes in how it would approach policing in this country.
“We do not intend to allow the rights of Baltimore residents to be free from unconstitutional policing practices to be thwarted by the tactics of this Justice Department, which are clearly designed to scuttle the completion of this consent decree process,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “The DOJ’s own investigative report, prepared by law enforcement professionals, recounts egregious widespread and systemic police misconduct and demonstrates the need for sustainable reforms that will strengthen public safety and build community trust. While the DOJ may want to walk away from the difficult work of policing reform, LDF isn’t going anywhere. Now is the time to begin implementing the consent decree, not to abandon it.”
“It is revealing that the DOJ sought to postpone this particular public hearing, at which Baltimore residents were expected to share their views about the provisions of the consent decree with Judge Bredar. This attempt to delay hearing the voices of community residents who have lived with the tragic consequences of unconstitutional policing in Baltimore speaks volumes about the DOJ’s priorities in this matter.”
“If left unchecked, the widespread and long-standing constitutional violations the DOJ found will exacerbate Baltimore’s public safety issues and widen the chasm between the BPD and the community it serves. Although LDF believes the consent decree could do more and has identified areas of improvement, we believe this decree as written will help transform the BPD significantly by eliminating racially-discriminatory stops, arrests and searches and curbing the use of excessive or lethal force by Baltimore police officers.”
The CCCD, its membership and Mr. Moore have a strong interest in ending unlawful and discriminatory police practices that have harmed them directly, as well as the communities they serve, and will continue to harm them if not addressed.
Three years ago, LDF launched its Policing Reform Campaign, which aims to promote unbiased and responsible policing at the national, state, and local levels. LDF’s longstanding engagement in the fight for policing reform in Baltimore traces back to the police in-custody death of Freddie Gray. Following his tragic death, LDF as well as a coalition of clergy and civil rights organizations sent a letter to then President Barack Obama formally requesting him to direct the U.S. Attorney General to open a civil rights investigation into the BPD. We argued that city residents had endured years of police violence and misconduct costing the city $5.7 million in settlements and court judgments from 2011 through 2014. The DOJ launched its probe of the BPD in May 2015, and over a year later, released a scathing report of its findings. The report found that the BPD engaged in a pattern or practice of: conducting unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; using racially discriminatory policing strategies; using excessive force; and retaliating against persons who criticized police officers or were involved in lawful protests. To inform settlement negotiations between the DOJ and Baltimore City officials, in September 2016, LDF co-hosted a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for Baltimore residents and stakeholders to share with the DOJ attorneys any policing reforms they wanted to see in any consent decree between the DOJ and the BPD. In March 2017, LDF submitted written comments on the proposed consent decree, which offered support for the consent decree and identified 12 areas of improvement.
Read the motion to intervene, the memorandum of law in support of the motion to intervene, the complaint in intervention and the proposed order.