Before the Freddie Gray case led to charges against six Baltimore police officers, the city had been working with the U.S. Justice Department in a “Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance” run by the U.S. Justice Department’s COPS Office. Where the DOJ Civil Rights Division is known for filing lawsuits to compel recalcitrant police agencies to stop discriminatory practices or the excessive use of force, COPS offers expertise and training to help change-minded police departments implement new policies on their own, the Marshall Project reports. “There are 18,000 police departments in this country, and the idea that we can sue our way into reform, or put every police department under a consent decree, is just not viable,” said COPS director Ronald Davis.
Baltimore police commissioner Anthony Batts, who had known Davis for years, called him last fall to ask for COPS’ help. The call came after the Baltimore Sun reported that the city had paid out $5.7 million in court judgments and settlements to resolve more than 100 police misconduct lawsuits since 2011. Batts and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have issued a reform plan that includes more accountability for rogue officers, better tracking of misconduct and possibly providing body cameras to record officers' actions. Still, City Council president Jack Young has asked the DOJ Civil Rights Division for a full review of the police department and is renewing that request to new Attorney General Loretta Lynch.