JULIET LINDERMAN, Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore officials are looking for a U.S. Justice Department review of the city police department's procedures and policies after several cases of use of force by officers have resulted in millions of dollars in legal settlements and public outcry.
Commissioner Anthony W. Batts announced Friday that he was asking for a review. The move was backed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said in an emailed statement that she welcomed any partners willing to work in reducing excessive force complaints. A day earlier, City Council President Bernard Young sent a letter to outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking federal officials to take a look at the department.
Young wrote that cases of people not charged with crimes suffering injuries at the hands of arresting officers "damage the fragile relationship between the city's police officers and citizens."
Since Batts was appointed in September 2012, he said he has disciplined roughly 30 officers found guilty of misconduct. The cases that resulted in millions in payouts came before Batts became commissioner.
On Friday, Batts described the Justice review as a "collaborative reform process."
"We welcome the examination," Batts said. "We have nothing to hide and everything to gain. Since my arrival I have not been afraid to bring outside reviews. This is in line with my policy that sunlight is the best disinfectant."
A federal review is not the same as an investigation. The review will not focus specifically on misconduct, but on the department's policies. Philadelphia and Las Vegas's police departments have also requested federal reviews.
Batts said Friday that he has been in contact with Ronald Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Justice Department, and that Davis agreed to the review.
In the past few months Batts has responded quickly to allegations of excessive force. In June, Batts suspended an officer who slit a dog's throat, and last month placed on leave an officer caught on video repeatedly punching a man outside of a liquor store before placing him under arrest. Charges against the man, Kollin Truss, were dropped after prosecutors viewed the footage.
"We're moving in the right direction," Batts said.
But at least one critic said a federal review is too little, too late.
"This is definitely not enough," said Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Witherspoon said a more thorough investigation into police misconduct is necessary, and suggested that the federal government take over the department temporarily. "There needs to be an investigative probe. We need to stronger action."