A federal judge said Thursday that four years into a federal consent decree, the Baltimore police department has “all the elements” in place for success and needs “maximum productivity” to speed reform, clean up the department and better serve the people of Baltimore, reports the Capital Gazette. Judge James Bredar made clear that the department has to do better in the way it interacts with the public and the way it tracks officers who step out of line. The most visible sign of improvement comes in the department’s efforts to bolster its ranks. Last year it hired 223 officers and lost 220, a very modest gain of three. But its average of 19 new hires a month is the most since 2014, and a look at the monthly numbers show much more reason for optimism, according to an exhibit filed for the federal court hearing.
Judge Bredar also emphasized the importance of training, to make sure the new officers understand the elements of community policing, current officers adjust to the changing needs and department leaders monitor their work and hold people accountable. he said “that hasn’t always been true,” especially in the difficult years before and soon after the consent decree was reached. Over the years Baltimore has been hampered by its inability or unwillingness to monitor and punish violent and even criminal officers, according to participants in the hearing and several state and federal investigations into corruption in the department. Participants in the hearing said that better technology to keep track of officers and community complaints against them is essential.