Policing For Dummies: DOJ/Baltimore PD Edition

from the things-they-know-but-choose-to-ignore dept

Apologies to everyone in America. The Department of Justice can’t fix what’s wrong with the nation’s police departments. It’s up to those departments to make the changes and stick to them. There has to be a desire to change, otherwise all we’ll end up with is better documentation of police misconduct and excessive force.

A police department has to fall pretty far before the DOJ is willing to step in. Consent agreements follow reports — all of which can be described as “scathing”. These follow DOJ investigations in which it’s routinely discovered the officers employed by the police department either don’t know the first thing about constitutionally-compliant policing… or just don’t care.

Reason’s Scott Shackford has read through the DOJ’s consent agreement [PDF] with the Baltimore PD — one that follows its extensive investigation/scathing report. In amongst all the new reporting requirements are passages that indicate Baltimore might be better off firing its entire force and hiring new recruits. The rot growing from within the department has destroyed everything, starting with the Constitution and working its way down to basic communications skills.

It’s completely depressing that all of this is included in the consent decree.

The agreement includes things like requiring police officers have reasonable suspicion to detain and search people, and not engage in warrantless searches; only arrest people for suspicions of crimes (no really, this is explained); stop using “boilerplate” language in reports to explain reasons behind stops and searches; not engage in racial profiling; not use information they know is not true to justify searches or arrests; attempt to de-escalate encounters before using force; not use force to punish people for resisting or attempting to flee (what the rest of us refer to as “police brutality”); don’t use Tasers on elderly people, pregnant women, and small children, or just to stop people from fleeing; use seatbelts or restraining devices on people being transported (remember this is all partly due to the Freddie Gray case); respect the rights of citizens to both criticize police and observe and record public police behavior without retaliation; not retaliate against people who file complaints against police conduct; and so many, many, many other things. A read through the consent decree feels like the documentation of how most citizens expect their police to behave already.

These are the things Baltimore’s police must be told to do, under the color of law and with the threat of federal sanctions backing it up. This is all stuff officers already should know — things they should have learned on their way to earning the right to be trusted with badges, guns, and power.

And in the middle of all the constitutional instructions, there’s a whole lot of common sense — like not retaliating in response to complaints. Or not tasing pregnant women, children, or the elderly. To be told this would be a slap in the face to a good police officer. When the department’s full of “bad apples,” however, basic instructions and handholding are apparently a necessity. The DOJ has to remind an entire law enforcement agency that they’re public servants, rather than uniformed thugs.

A consent decree will follow the investigation that just wrapped up in Chicago — and a report that may secure the Chicago PD the “Worst Cops in America” trophy it’s apparently been trying to earn for the last couple of decades, if not longer. In it will be reminders that officers aren’t allowed to haul suspects off to ad hoc “black sites” or use deadly force on people who don’t pose a threat to officers or other citizens.

And in another decade or two, the DOJ will roll back into town and start the process all over again. There are very few officials willing to do the difficult, unpleasant work of changing law enforcement culture by rooting out those who have either engaged actively in the rotting process or stood idly by while it happened.

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Comments on “Policing For Dummies: DOJ/Baltimore PD Edition”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It could also be add sponge to liquid. Then, there are the modifiers based on proper (or improper) use cases. Do you want your sponge moist, wet, or dripping? Are you trying to clean something, or just wet it down? Should this object be cleaned, or is this being sanitized or even disinfected? Does what you are trying to use the sponge on require the liquid to be a certain temperature? How hot is too hot? How cold is too cold? What if you want it to just LOOK like you’ve wet the sponge? (Then you get into mercury, with all its caveats. This is cool, and a health hazard at the same time!)

Anonymous Coward says:


“The Department of Justice can’t fix what’s wrong with the nation’s police departments.”

It CAN fix them! It just does not want to do so!

The FIRST job of the Federal Government is to ensure that the States and their many law enforcement agencies adhere to the constitution. Let us observe this short snippet from the Declaration of Independence. “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…”

Here, like so many other citizens, we have all have become so used to the corruption, the apathy, the ignorance, the fetid state of affairs that we no longer know anything, understand anything, or even attempt to learn anything.

Every Nation gets the government it deserves!
~Joseph De Maistre

crandall says:

Re: Re: Feature not a Bug !


>>> “The corrupt police departments are a feature, not a bug.”


Cops are the hands-on, day to day “enforcers” of our government rulers against the general populace — those rulers totally depend upon cops for their power & ample income. Therefore, federal/state/local police must be given very wide power to keep the populace “under control” and fearful of “the law” !

Cops routinely operate outside-the-law … due to the unconstitutional “immunity” concept for government employees (especially police). This immunity nonsense was deliberately created by government judges & legislators to protect their illicit power structure.

The simple fix is for all cops to be treated exactly like any other citizen before the law. Cop assaults/homicides/kidnappings/thefts/extortions/perjuries/etc SHOULD be handled by prosecutors & courts EXACTLY the same as any average citizen would face in the American justice system.

But that won’t happen — because the DOJ, courts, legislatures, mayors, governors, presidents (and cops) want personal insulation from the rule of law — it’s indeed a deliberate feature in government… not a bug.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Congress could intervene

Congress could invoke its civil rights power under the Fourteenth Amendment to overrule police union contracts, State laws, and local laws that hamper investigations of possible police misconduct and removal of untrustworthy officers. But that would raise opposition from police unions that neither Congress nor the White House probably wish to face.

Alphonse Tomato says:

Re: Congress could intervene

@Hugo S Cunningham
By and large, the problem isn’t police unions. Unions are supposed to stick up for their members. The problem is police management, the Chiefs, the politicians who are above them, and the citizens who think police can do no wrong, who instinctively comply with “authority”. Those are the ones who don’t have the spine to deal with the issue, who give away management powers in negotiations with the union, who fail to hold officers personally responsible, fear to being called “anti-police”.

Unfortunately, as we have seen, some of the public likes thugs and bullies.

Groaker (profile) says:

What does this all have to do with tech? Perhaps you might go back and read some history. Regimes that permit free exploration of ideas are those in which tech flourishes.

A better question is how will tech grow in a despotic regime? As an example, how long did Lysenkoism hold back Soviet genetics?

How long did Christianity hold back the development of the sciences because they were believed to be Satanistic and based on the supernatural?

I can truly understand not wanting to pay $1K a credit for liberal arts courses, but at least read. The library (physical or electronic) is free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is amazing how many people claim Christianity and science are opposites. Louis Pastuer, a Christian, disproved abiogenesis. If it were up to the atheists, we would still be drinking spoiled milk. If they choose to educate themselves, they would find that Christians and people who believed in God advanced science because they felt God was a God of order and the universe could be known. The atheists thought everything was random.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“If it were up to the atheists, we would still be drinking spoiled milk.”

You claim to be knowledgeable and yet type the above drivel, something does not add up.

“If they choose to educate themselves”

Indeed … anyone with whom you disagree is obviously uneducated.

“.. God of order … The atheists thought everything was random.”

Your look of confusion is understandable given your preconceptions.

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The problem here is that both sides are trying to pretend that the other side was universally “good” or “bad”. That’s far too simplistic.

There have been times when those in power in Christianity brought a near halt to all scientific advancements and claimed that science was of the devil. That’s history, and it cannot be ignored.

There have also been times when learning and study were embraced by Christianity and helped bring about important growth in knowledge and science.

In short, blaming Christianity is ridiculous, but ignoring the bad that did happen doesn’t help either.

Groaker says:

You can find 10 people who think that there are tiny people acting in the boxes called TVs. Or more who believe they should sell their houses and give the money to their pastor because the end of the world is nigh. So what? The religious often like to make up stories about agnostic or atheistic polymaths who “repent” at the time of death. Jefferson and Voltaire being examples.

The battle between religion continues to deny evolution even though it has convergent proofs from a wide variety of hard sciences, not just someone saying I think that life evolved. Many states in the US attempt to deny the teaching of evolution, one of most strongly underpinned of sciences. Aside from geology, archaeology, genetics, biochemistry, paleontology, as well as that strongest of tests — prediction of later discovered intermediate species.

Holy books are notoriously inaccurate at predicting much of anything.

Wikipedia is not an authority, but their entry is at least even handed:

Relationship between religion and science

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, for this proven science that is so indisputable: could you please show me the scientific test that was used to prove that evolution could turn a creature into something completely different?

Without a provable process that is shown to produce the theorized results and can be repeated at least 3 times by independent researchers, all you have is a theory. It’s a perfectly valid theory, but still just a theory.

Evolution is a scientific fact, but only in the sense that it can make small changes to adapt to different conditions. My issue with people arguing things like this is that when they want something to be true, it seems they too easily throw even their own scientific process out the window so that they can call it true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“evolution could turn a creature into something completely different”

Evolution does not claim that change from one creature into another is possible. Perhaps it is the word evolve that is misunderstood, as it implies a lengthy period of time and afaik, does not suggest said change occurs instantaneously.

“It’s a perfectly valid theory, but still just a theory”

The theory of gravity – is just a theory and is not well
understood. Evolution is better understood than gravity.

“Evolution is a scientific fact”

Wait … you just said it is just a theory and now you say it is fact. Make up your mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Legislation at the federal level is typically put in place by monied interests in opposition to movements at the state and local levels. It is the same douche bags shouting state rights that push federal regulations in order to stifle opposition.

So yeah .. states rights – if they are my rights, otherwise screw you.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: What Consent Agreement

Trump “revoked” the agreement? I would appreciate a specific cite for this. All I am finding is that the Baltimore judge James Bredar granted a week extension to the hearing over the 200+ page agreement so that the new administration can come up to speed on the details. (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-consent-decree-delay-20170120-story.html)

That judge has to hold the hearing and approve the agreement before it goes into effect. (Not that it matters, but the knee-jerk tribalists will want to know that the judge is an Obama appointee.)

BTW, I am making no statement on what Trump did/didn’t will/won’t do, since I have no idea. But, I would be interested in seeing what current evidence supports the “revoked” statement.

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