All misconduct complaints made against Baltimore police are now being forwarded to the Civilian Review Board, established nearly 20 years ago. Before August 2016, less than a third of the complaints were forwarded, because they were they were devoid a notarized signature, which is required under a state law.
Most people filed their complaints through email or phone, so the required notarized signature was lacking. Also, many of the complainants failed to follow up on their complaints at a later date.
In August 2016, the city hall negotiated a deal between the board and police department, which required the police to forward all complaints, even those that were not notarized.
Director of the city’s office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, Jill Carter, who oversees the Civilian Review Board, said she has seen “a greater spirit of cooperation,” due to the consent decree to reform policing, which was negotiated between the city and the Justice Department.
“Stronger civilian oversight is better for both the community and police,” she said.
According to data obtained by The Baltimore Sun, in 2016, the police forwarded an estimated 40 percent of 278 misconduct complaints it received from civilians. The complaints that were not forwarded were prior to the August agreement.
The Civilian Review Board accepts complaints of abuse language, excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment and harassment. Civilians have the option of filing their complaints with police or the civilian board. All complaints received by the police will be forwarded to the board.
The board is struggling to keep seats filled, since it has no enforcement powers and few investigators. On Monday, the city council members confirmed five of the nine board members. Seats for Western, Southern and Eastern districts are still open.
Under the consent decree, city officials are required to appoint a task force to investigate and make recommendations on how to reinforce the board. Nominations for the task force will be accepted until May 22.