It has been six months since the City of Baltimore and the Department of Justice entered into the Consent Decree to pave the way forward for “effective, constitutional law enforcement” in Baltimore. University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Professor Michael Pinard invited two alumni heavily involved with the process, Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis ‘78 and Community Oversight Task Force member Denise Duval ’90, to speak with the Maryland Carey Law community and chronicle their work giving form to that vision.
(Denise Duval and Solicitor Davis)
After an introduction by Dean Donald Tobin, Professor Pinard identified the unique potential this moment in time has for the future of the city of Baltimore and its citizens. The Consent Decree requires sweeping reform of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) in response to the US Department of Justice’s findings that the BPD “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.” The final shape that reform will take is still unknown as Professor Pinard posed the question: How will this decree be operationalized and how can we be of service to this process moving forward?
At the time of the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray, Davis was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. He was hesitant to leave the bench, but when asked to become the Baltimore City Solicitor, he saw the opportunity to help even more people in that role. As the Baltimore City Solicitor, Davis heads the Baltimore City Law Department that is broadly responsible for giving legal advice and counsel to city officials and agencies. He concisely described his job with the City, as it relates to the Consent Decree, as making sure City officials do not have to go before the federal judge overseeing the consent decree for ignoring its provisions before adding, “constitutional best practices are what we’re going after.” Davis then exhorted the dozens of law students attending the event to consider an internship or externship with the Baltimore City Law Department as this set of circumstances presents them the unique opportunity to have a direct hand in the future of Baltimore.
Denise Duval took the podium next and introduced herself as a member of the Community Oversight Task Force (COTF). The COTF was created in accordance with the Consent Decree to recommend reforms to the Civilian Review Board (CRB), the organization currently tasked with investigating complaints against law enforcement, and the overall civilian oversight regime currently in place. Duval described the current system as a parallel process. When a complaint is filed, the CRB investigates the allegations while the BPD conducts its own independent investigation; both entities provide their recommendations to the BPD Commissioner.
Among the shortcomings of the current system Ms. Duval identified: a law enforcement officer leads the CRB investigation; the CRB cannot subpoena the officer alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing; the BPD Commissioner is neither obligated to follow the recommendation of the CRB nor make his final decision public; and, if an officer is disciplined, that may be expunged from his or her record after three years, making it difficult to establish a pattern. In light of those challenges, Duval echoed Davis’s exhortation to the students who were present. Duval likened the process to a relay marathon where those currently working under the Consent Decree will eventually have to pass the baton to a new generation of lawyers to enact lasting change.
As the event concluded, students were left energized about the possibility of doing more. “As a 3L, I know many of us are looking for ways to get involved with our community before we graduate; the opportunities presented at the meeting represent great ways for us to work with Baltimore's stakeholders to fix Baltimore's problems,” commented Matthew Schofield, a third year law student at Maryland Carey Law. “Several of my 3L friends in attendance plan to apply to the internship, which to me indicates the event was a great success.”
A recording of the event can be found here.