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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and police commissioner Anthony W. Batts released a lengthy 41-page report outlining their recommendations to curb police brutality in Baltimore.
ANGEL ELLIOTT, PRODUCER: I’m Angel Elliott for The Real News. And I’m here at the Baltimore City police department headquarters.
One week after The Baltimore Sun released a six-month-long investigation uncovering how the city doled out $5.7 million settling brute police brutality cases, the city gave what they say is their strongest response to date, a 41-page report outlining policies and reforms the city will explore to help rebuild trust within the community.
Critics of the report say that it’s really just smoke and mirrors.
MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, MAYOR, BALTIMORE CITY: It’s often said, or I’ve often said, that we didn’t create these problems. We have taken steps necessary to begin updating the Baltimore City police department’s practices to meet national standards.
It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of the Baltimore City police department come to work each and every day and serve this city honorably. However, the despicable acts of a few bad actors tarnish all who wear their uniform. The goal of the review is to build upon the reforms already in place, with a focus on developing additional internal controls to track, to monitor, and to respond early to officer misconduct.
ANTHONY W. BATTS, COMMISSIONEER, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT.: This isn’t fluff. This isn’t child’s play. This is not toying around. These are hard-hitting recommendations we have been working on with a roadmap to the future.
ELLIOTT: Commissioner Batts outlined the plans and recommendations in the report.
BATTS: Community outreach is addressed within a number of our new programs, including our citizen academy, new types of outreach to make community members part of our promotional process. We outline some of our dynamic training, including constitutional, impartial policing, emotional intelligence, and de-escalation techniques, not taking things personally. We will continue to strengthen our disciplinary process, making sure it’s fair, it’s just, without bias.
ELLIOTT: Although the 41 page report’s goal was to take steps towards reforming, quote-unquote, bad actors on the police force, Officer Vincent Cosom, the officer police officer who can be seen repeatedly beating civilian Kollin Truss in the now infamous video, is suspended with pay and hasn’t been charged, even with the overwhelming public evidence–an essential vacation. How much change will residents really see?
JERRY RODRIGUEZ, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT.: The laws of Maryland allow us to suspend an officer without pay under some very specific rules. In this case, we’re not able to. We can only suspend an officer without pay if they’ve been charged with a felony.
REPORTER: And there’s no charge in this case.
RODRIGUEZ: At this moment, no.
ELLIOTT: But the issue of police brutality is deeper than a few bad actors. Former Black Panther Eddie Conway, who now works for The Real News Network, says it’s systemic.
EDDIE CONWAY, FMR. BLACK PANTHER, BALTIMORE CHAPTER: It’s systemic in the sense that there’s no way to control large numbers of people that are impoverished or made impoverished by the ruling class without using force.
It’s not an issue of trust in the community. I think the community have long ago decided that they could not trust–at least segments of the community, large segments of the community, decided that they could not trust the police.
ELLIOTT: The police commissioner and mayor said that they would pursue steps towards getting wider authority to punish cops. The stopgap? The police bill of rights.
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: The commissioner has felt in the past and commissioners before him have felt really hamstrung that they couldn’t really assert the authority that they would like to assert to get to the bottom of incidents. Those are the types of things that we will look to address. Those are the types of things–when I mentioned that we were taking a look at the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, those were the types of things that we’re looking on. Do we have concrete things that we’re going to go down address today? No, but we have to look at all of those pressure points to figure out how can we get it better.
BATTS: –the legislative agenda to address moving forward. That’s also part of our contract and the things that we’re moving within the organization. We’ll come to the table. As we will negotiate in the 2016 (I believe) contract, we’ll try to address it there.
CONWAY: I don’t think the measures that the city is talking about will eliminate police brutality, because the root cause of police brutality is that people are living in brutal conditions and they respond brutally to it. In order to police the communities, the police force acts in a brutal way. And so those conditions that people are living–poverty, unemployment, sometimes hunger, anger, frustration, etc., collapsing houses, and so on, it creates a brutal environment, and that brutal environment in turn creates real frustration and hostility down on the ground. And police, in turn, are brutalized by those same conditions, and they respond in a brutal kind of way.
ELLIOTT: While some of the measures here may mitigate some police brutality, without effective civilian oversight and changing real social conditions that people are living in, there aren’t going to be real solutions.
For The Real News, I’m Angel Elliott.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.