A diverse crowd of dozens met on Tuesday for the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) People’s Town Hall.
One by one, people came to the mic to share their stories of interactions with the Baltimore Police Department — not just to a room of sympathetic listeners, but to BPD officials as well.
The people responsible for BPD’s implementation of the Consent Decree sat and listened to the stories of everyday people touched by the racism and corruption which has been allowed to fester in our city’s police force. Stories of harassment, violence, and outright contempt for Black people in this city were shared. These stories are unfortunately all too commonplace on the streets of Baltimore’s predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods.
Clearly, the process of reform is not over. More than three years after the murder of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Police Department still needs to overhaul its department policies and culture to protect poor, Black, and Brown Baltimoreans from police brutality. At the Town Hall, this began with breakout groups reviewing the most recent policies drafted by the police force to see where they succeeded in creating more accountability, and where they still allowed room for misconduct.
This set of proposals is about to be released more widely, and will be open for comment at bpdmonitor.com/public-comment. CJSJ relies on citizens of Baltimore to provide feedback demanding greater accountability and transparency; we should all keep an eye out for when that comment period opens. Are you a lawyer? Even better–the folks at the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund could use your help sifting through the policies, and you can volunteer to do so by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BPD is not going to transform itself. It will take consistent pressure and mobilization from everyday Baltimoreans to create the profound kinds of changes that will be necessary to make our community safe for people of every identity. Town halls like these, and registering discontent through the Monitor Team’s comment period, are the next steps in applying that pressure.