The special investigative unit created by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to probe shootings by officers and deaths in police custody has been overhauled by Batts’ successor, who has replaced all of the team’s members and given it a new name, reports the Baltimore Sun. Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis replaced the Force Investigation Team with the Special Investigations Response Team, or SIRT, swapping one Department of Justice review model for another. The Justice Department is conducting its own investigation of the Police Department’s use of force.
The move is the latest change in a turbulent year for Baltimore police and the city. Freddie Gray’s death in April, after he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody, drew protests against police brutality. On the day he was buried, the city erupted in rioting, looting and arson. Davis said “recent examples have demonstrated [that] the BPD is capable of policing itself when matters arise that directly impact public trust and confidence.” The Force Investigation Team (FIT) was modeled on a unit developed by Justice officials and put in place in Las Vegas. Baltimore promised to post its FIT investigations online, a first-of-its-kind idea that was short-lived. David Harris, who studies police misconduct at the University of Pittsburgh, said FIT and SIRT units are “second-best” alternatives to independent bodies that investigate departments from the outside.