By Toby Ditz
Over a dozen people attended the Advocacy Workshop organized by the No Boundaries Coalition on July 25th at their Avenue Engagement Center at 1808 Pennsylvania Ave. They gathered to comment in writing and for the public record on the recently released report by the Community Oversight Task Force (COTF). The task force, chaired by Ray Kelly, was appointed by the mayor under the terms of the judicial consent decree to make specific recommendations about civilian oversight on policing.
Kelly and others opened the meeting by providing an informative overview of the COTF’s recommendations. Their core recommendations include the following:
- Establish a Police Accountability Commission appointed by the Mayor and City Council to govern and regulate the independent police accountability agency.
- Institute an independent Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) with professional staff to investigate complaints of police misconduct; audit the police’s training, policies, and procedures; and conduct community outreach on policing issues.
- Grant COPA full investigatory and subpoena powers to enable effective civilian oversight. When COPA’s recommendations for discipline are not followed by the Police Commissioner, the Commissioner’s reasoning for diverging from the COPA’s recommendations must be made public.
- Return full control of the Baltimore Police Department back to the city.
- Strengthen police-community relations by engaging in rigorous community outreach and community policing, bias-free policing and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
- Create the foundation for community trust in the police by implementing improved policing policies that ensure fair and impartial policing and transformative justice and reconciliation measures.
- As an interim measure to improve civilian oversight until the COPA comes into existence, equip the existing Civilian Review Board with full access to information and resources necessary to do their jobs and fulfill their statutory mandates.
After the briefing, the attendees got to work. Many wrote eloquent letters about their own experiences with the Baltimore police.
The COFT report is available online in its entirety—and it’s eye-opening. It is visionary in its commitment to racially just policing, while also offering practical, detailed recommendations that can be implemented now. It is also based on exhaustive research, including site visits to other cities.
The public comment period on the Task Force report officially ended on August 10, but you can still contact your city and state representatives to express your views.