Over a dozen applicants hoping to serve as a monitor for the city’s agreement with the justice department answered questions as new allegations surfaced against an allegedly corrupt gun unit
Taya Graham: Since the announcement of the consent decree between the justice department and the city of Baltimore to reform policing, questions have loomed over what happens next. One critical point has been who will monitor the department to ensure police comply with the terms of the agreement. The justice department has received over 21 applicants for the job, but Thursday it was the community’s turn to weigh in. Speaker 2: Everyone who has been beaten by the police, everyone who has been mistreated in any type of a way matters to me. Taya Graham: At Coppin State University, the Coalition for Justice, Safety, and Jobs sponsored a packed forum for residents to hear directly from the applicants. Speaker 3: When you committed to specifically working with campaign for Justice, Safety, and Job affiliate organizations during this monitoring process. Taya Graham: Among the questions, how would they connect to activists. Speaker 4: I know from my experience in Chicago where we are going through many of the same things that you’ve been experiencing over these last couple years, engaging the community to make sure that the community’s needs are heard and reflected and respected. Speaker 5: … already. I was born, bred, education in the community. I’m a graduate of Coppin State University. We have Baltimore is already on our team. We’ve already reached out to certain community organizations … Speaker 6: There is no way we are going to know what’s really going on in the communities unless you tell us. Taya Graham: Would they solicit feedback from the community? Speaker 7: We are neutral. We look at things to make sure people are obeying laws. How do you build the trust? How do you get there? You go into the community. You earn it. I can’t talk my way into it here. I have to sit down. You have to meet my team. I have to learn what your problems are. Speaker 8: Fundamentally believe that Baltimore has the experience, the dedication, the commitment, the resources to make the kind of change we want to see for our city. As it relates to community engagement, the answer is yes. We will be engaging with the community. In fact, we already have. Taya Graham: And for monitoring groups that included members of law enforcement, how could they build trust in the city where police are not trusted? Speaker 8: We’re trying to build a process with the police and train the police in best practices. Consequently, what we did is we went to places where they had been under consent decrees and we worked with and brought onto our team people who in fact got their cities doing what they were supposed to do. Speaker 9: Because I believe in what I’m doing. I believe in the community. I feel like I owe the city everything I have. The inner-city community raised me to be the man I am, so bias with policing, the bias is towards the community. The community are the bosses. Taya Graham: They were questions that took on more importance in light of new allegations against members of the now notorious gun-trace task force. Earlier this year, the seven officers were indicted for stealing money from residents, dealing drugs and overtime fraud, but new indictments against three of the officers, expanded the scope of their crime to include 14 additional robberies along with one case where they enlisted civilians to rob an innocent resident of $20,000. It is a lawlessness that many of the would-be monitors pledged to rein in. And the question for the community, who can they trust? Speaker 10: But I just wanted to let you know that I will never stop standing, I will never stop fighting. Thank you so much. Taya Graham: This Taya Graham and Stephan Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.