Judge Overseeing Police Case Calls Baltimore Mayor to Court

BALTIMORE (AP) — The federal judge presiding over a settlement between the Baltimore Police Department and the U.S. Justice Department has asked the city’s mayor to appear in court to discuss the costs of the agreement.

In a letter sent Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Bredar said he wants Mayor Catherine Pugh to appear at a hearing next week to address whether he can accept the terms of the proposed agreement without an estimate of how much it would cost to execute.

The proposed agreement was announced last week after months of negotiations and calls for sweeping reforms to correct myriad issues identified in a scathing report that revealed patterns of discrimination, excessive force and unlawful arrests.

In his letter the judge also asked both parties how they would recommend the court reconcile any conflicts between the agreement and the police union’s collective bargaining agreement and how a public hearing on the proposed agreement would work. Bredar also noted that some reforms outlined in the consent decree don’t have proposed deadlines.

“Measuring compliance with a decree in which many requirements are aspirational, general, and lacking in deadlines, and where resources are unidentified, and where costs are not specified or known is a daunting prospect,” he wrote.

The agreement mandates changes in the most fundamental aspects of daily police work, including stops, searches and arrests. The proposed settlement came after months of negotiations and is meant to correct constitutional violations.

The Justice Department began investigating the Baltimore force following the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who was fatally injured while in police custody. Its report last August found that officers routinely stopped large numbers of people in poor, black neighborhoods for dubious reasons and unlawfully arrested residents merely for speaking out in ways police deemed disrespectful.

The consent decree discourages the arrests of citizens for offenses like loitering or littering, requires a supervisor to sign off on any request to take someone into custody for a minor infraction, and also mandates basic training for making stops and searches.

In addition, it commands officers to use de-escalation techniques, thoroughly investigate sexual assault claims and send specially trained units to distress calls involving people with mental illness.

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