More than a year after Freddie Gray died from injuries sustained while in the custody of Baltimore police officers, the city’s law enforcement agency has updated its use of force policy.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the new policy, which goes into effect today (July 1), emphasizes deescalation and the “sanctity of life.” It’s the first across the board update of the policy since 2003, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a June 29 press conference that it’s important because officers’ use of force is “one of the most scrutinized areas in policing, and it is incumbent upon the police department to ensure its officers are well trained and knowledgable about the procedures when a decision is made to use force.”
Key updates include:
- Increased reporting requirements for incidents that involve force, including a form for when officers point a gun or flash a Taser’s current
- A focus on quickly deescalating incidents
- Officers must step in if their colleagues are using excessive force
- Officers have a duty to provide medical aid or immediate hospital transport
The policy was revised with input from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, the local chapter of the NAACP and Baltimore prosecutors and public defenders.
But David Rocah, a senior staff attorney at ACLU of Maryland says it does not go far enough and still has “significant problems,” noting that the department is not adhering to best practices. He specifically takes issue with the fact that it does not require officers who use deadly force to complete a reporting form, doesn’t adequately restrict the use of Tasers and pepper spray, and doesn’t require intervention for force that falls short of “excessive” but is still unnecessary.
“The policy should be when you use force, you report it. Period. End of discussion,” Rocah said. “That’s simple. That’s easy to understand. There’s no quibbling. That would avoid confusion, which we’ve seen again and again in the Freddie Gray trials.”
Read both the new and the old use of force policies here. Then click here to see how it stacks up against other policies around the country.