Baltimore Ends “Zero-Tolerance” Arrests With $870,000 Settlement


The American Civil Liberties Union and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say thousands of Baltimoreans were rounded up because of zero-tolerance policies that put a big emphasis on arrests but little on justifying them, the Baltimore Sun reports. An $870,000 settlement approved yesterday by the Board of Estimates will require the city to retrain officers, mandate that supervisors review “quality of life” arrests and allow an independent auditor to evaluate data and submit semiannual reports.

In a joint statement with the plaintiffs, the Police Department said it “had agreed to reject the zero-tolerance policies” and establish new ways to handle low-level infractions. Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said the reforms were “certainly in line with my overall mission for this Police Department.” Said the ACLU’s David Rocah: “Each of these [reforms] is aimed at addressing what we thought were the structural reasons why improper arrests had bloomed in Baltimore. This was a case of toxic neglect. It just didn’t matter enough to [officials] that this was happening.” The lawsuit, filed in 2006, chiefly covered arrests and policies the plaintiffs contended were enacted and encouraged by then-Mayor Martin O’Malley. O’Malley, now governor, maintained yesterday that there was “never, ever a policy that asked police officers to go beyond the Constitution or to engage in illegal arrests.”

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