Politicians ask Justice Department about talks on Baltimore police
Maryland congressional lawmakers have asked the U.S. Justice Department about the status of talks on reforming Baltimore’s troubled police department, according to a letter released on Tuesday.
The letter from Maryland’s senators, a senator-elect and three congressmen said they were hearing growing concern from constituents about delays in drafting the settlement.
A Justice Department report released in August found that the 2,600-member police department engaged in a pattern of conduct that violated the Constitution or federal law. Settlement talks between the city and the Justice Department on reforms had been expected to conclude by Nov. 1.
“It is absolutely imperative that decisive, steady, urgent progress toward crafting a meaningful consent decree be made a top priority by all involved,” the letter said.
The letter was sent on Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Mayor-elect Catherine Pugh. It was signed by Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, all Democrats.
A Justice Department spokesman said the letter was under review. Vanita Gupta, head of the department’s civil rights division, said last month that both sides were working toward an accord as quickly as possible.
A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake did not respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department probe was launched after the 2015 death of a black man, Freddie Gray, from an injury in police custody. Gray’s death sparked rioting in the largely African-American city and fueled the Black Lives Matter movement protesting police brutality against minorities.
Six police officers accused in Gray’s death were either acquitted or charges were dropped.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Dan Grebler)