To say that the Baltimore Police Department doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to race relations or violence would be putting it lightly. The city has been the focal point of a great deal of trouble and unrest during the last year, specifically following the death of Freddie Grey, who was killed while in police custody. In light of that, the BPD is taking steps towards curtailing police violence--baby steps.
The new policy requires police to “de-escalate violent situations, to report colleagues who use inappropriate force, and to respect the ‘sanctity of life.’” That’s all well and good, but those items should be common sense and standard practice without having to be codified. The NAACP has endorsed the new policy, but it’s not good enough for the ACLU, which has pointed out that there are some serious loopholes that need to be addressed.
One is that there are still no forms required of officers who use deadly force, even though that’s required by the state. It’s possible that’s just an oversight, or wasn’t included because there are already state requirements on the issue–but in either case, best practice would be to include the requirements in the new policy. Reinforcing those requirements in this policy would help to reinforce them in the minds of officers.
And while there is a provision which requires officers to intervene when another officer uses excessive force, subject to discipline if ignored, there’s nothing about lesser force. What exactly defines “excessive” force? If an officer doesn’t think a beating dished out by his partner is “excessive,” does he not get in trouble for not reporting it? The language is far too broad and needs to be tightened to prevent misinterpretation.
Surprisingly, there aren’t any provisions that require supervisors to question other officers about the use of force, which implies that the problems are purely caused by cops not reporting each other–and not by a failure of command. It removes the responsibility of supervising officers to keep their subordinates in check, which is a necessity in any police force.