U.S. in deal to reform Baltimore police
after Freddie Gray death
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[January 13, 2017]
By Donna Owens
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The city of Baltimore
will enact a series of police reforms including changes in how officers
use force and transport prisoners under an agreement with the U.S.
Justice Department filed in federal court on Thursday.
The agreement comes almost two years after the death of a black man,
Freddie Gray, of injuries sustained while in police custody sparked a
day of rioting and arson in the majority-black city. It also led to an
investigation that found the city's police routinely violated residents'
Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the deal, which is
subject to a judge's approval, would be binding even after
President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20.
"The reforms in this consent decree will help ensure effective and
constitutional policing, restore the community's trust in law
enforcement, and advance public and officer safety," Lynch told
reporters, flanked by recently elected Mayor Catherine Pugh.
The 227-page consent decree agreement is the result of months of
negotiations after a federal report released in August found that the
city's 2,600-member police department routinely violated black
residents' civil rights with strip searches, by excessively using force
and other means.
The probe followed the April 2015 death of Gray, 25, who died of
injuries sustained in the back of a police van. His was one of a series
of high-profile deaths in U.S. cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to North
Charleston, South Carolina, that sparked an intense debate about race
and justice and fueled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Department of Justice is scheduled to release the findings of its
investigation into the Chicago Police Department on Friday in the
Midwest city, local media reported. In Philadelphia on Friday, a report
on reform efforts by the Philadelphia Police Department will be
released, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
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A woman talks on her cell phone as she passes a mural of the late
Freddie Gray in the Sandtown neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland,
U.S., July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
Prosecutors brought charges against six officers involved in Gray's
arrest but secured no convictions.
William Murphy Jr., an attorney who represented the Gray family in a
civil suit against the city that led to a $6 million settlement,
praised the deal.
"Make no mistake, today is a revolution in policing in Baltimore,"
The head of city's police union was warier, saying his group had not
been a part of the negotiations.
"Neither our rank and file members who will be the most affected,
nor our attorneys, have had a chance to read the final product,"
Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police,
said in a statement.
City officials said union officials had been involved in talks early
on but stopped attending meetings.
(Additional reporting by Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago. Editing by
Tom Brown and Andrew Hay)
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