Baltimore PD Faces Culture Change; Sergeants Seen as Key

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In light of a withering federal report about his department, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis faces the challenge of transforming a culture that emphasized arrest numbers over community policing, reports the Baltimore Sun. “If you’re raised in that culture, you probably don’t think there is anything wrong with it,” Davis said. “But there is something wrong with it.” Now, under a consent decree to be negotiated by city and federal officials, a court will demand that the culture change. The Justice Department says Baltimore is clinging to a zero-tolerance approach to policing that drove arrests there to a peak of 100,000 in 2005.

The federal investigators concluded that the department has paid lip service to community policing ideas, but its training and policies do not make them a priority. One training session on whether police should be “warriors” or “guardians” focused on the disadvantages of being a guardian, the investigators wrote disapprovingly. Supervisors who were trained in the old methods haven’t given them up. Neill Franklin, a former state trooper and city police officer, said much of the work will fall on the sergeants, the department’s frontline supervisors. They can first step in when things are going astray and mentor promising young officers, Franklin said. Sergeants who embrace new policies should be supported and nurtured, Franklin said, while those who resist should be held accountable.

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