Amid calls to ”defund the police,” the federal judge overseeing the Baltimore Police consent decree said Thursday that “such reform options may exist in other cities, but not here,” the Baltimore Sun reports. U.S. District Judge James Bredar doubled down on his support for the city to continue with its years-long reforms, which require increased funding and hiring more police officers, despite the recent push to shift police funding to other areas or restructure policing to incorporate more social services. Bredar said Baltimore leaders in 2017 chose the path of the federally enforced decree, and the city has a legal obligation to complete those reforms. Baltimore entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department after a DOJ investigation found Baltimore police officers routinely violated citizens’ civil rights. The investigation was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015. “A specific path has already been chosen here,” Bredar said. “The court will require that the city travel down that path until it reaches the destination of ‘substantial compliance.’ ”
Bredar highlighted the progress that has begun under Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who arrived last year, while acknowledging obstacles including the coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed training on reformed policies and diverted police resources. Debates over the “defund the police” movement have dominated budget discussions at city hall, where the City Council voted to eliminate $22 million in police spending for the upcoming fiscal year. Council President Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said at the time that it was a symbol of what’s to come. Scott said he would commit to both the path laid out in the consent decree and the idea of reimagining public safety and the police budget. “Those things can happen simultaneously,” he said, adding that attempts to reduce the budget must be done responsibly.