Baltimore, US reach consent decree over policing

BALTIMORE (AP) — A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says the city and the U.S. Justice Department have reached agreement on a consent decree that will require the city to reform its police department.

"Negotiations are done," Anthony McCarthy said Wednesday. "The final document has gone to the principals" to be signed.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to speak on community policing Thursday at the University of Baltimore Law School, as well as meet with community members, law enforcement and other local officials.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Pugh stopped short of confirming that an announcement would be made Thursday, but said the city is "very very close" to finalizing the agreement.

The Justice Department opened a formal investigation of the department's patterns and practices after the death in police custody of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray. Six police officers were charged but none were convicted in the arrest and death of Gray, whose neck was severed inside a police van.

The Justice Department in the last eight years has opened similar investigations into about two dozen local law enforcement agencies, including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Chicago; Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri. The Baltimore police department is one of the largest to come under Justice Department scrutiny.

The city and the federal government agreed to enter into a binding consent decree when a Justice Department report released in August found pervasive civil rights violations by the police department.

The report found that Baltimore police officers routinely used excessive force, discriminated against African-Americans and made unlawful arrests; It also identified serious training deficiencies.

The police department has already begun addressing some issues outlined in the report. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said Tuesday officers are now required to undergo 80 hours of in-service training — twice the time required by the state — and officers in the field are equipped with body cameras.