The Latest: Some say Baltimore police reforms not enough

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Posted: Apr 06, 2017 11:57 AM
The Latest: Some say Baltimore police reforms not enough

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on a public hearing on an agreement between the city and the Justice Department to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department (all times local):

11:50 a.m.

Some citizens harshly criticized the Baltimore Police Department at a public hearing and said it is so abusive and dysfunctional that the reforms outlined in a proposed agreement between the city and the Justice Department don't go far enough.

Maryland Public Defender Paul DeWolfe said the agreement is "insufficient" because it doesn't adequately ensure transparency in prosecutions. He says his office unsuccessfully sought internal affairs records from the State's Attorney's Office for two officers a week before they were federally indicted for fraud and abuses.

David Prater is a representative from Disability Rights Maryland. He urged the judge to sign the decree, but said people suffering from mental health crises shouldn't be funneled into the criminal justice system, and that the city should design a "comprehensive crisis system that focuses on recovery and community integration."

An attorney for the Justice Department says the agency has "grave concerns" about a proposed agreement.

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11 a.m.

Baltimore residents overwhelmingly voiced support for a proposed agreement between the city and the Justice Department to overhaul the police department.

Many shared harrowing stories of police abuse to make clear how necessary such reforms are. Multiple mothers whose sons were killed by police testified about their pain.

Prudence Johnson urged the judge to sign the court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree. She said, "please move forward on this. We are tired of burying our children."

Other community members told stories about how the police force inadequately handled rape cases or incidents involving mental illness.

Isaac Wilson, a black high school student, says he carries a burden of being discriminated against. He says the consent decree is the closest thing to justice he has seen.

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10:40 a.m.

An attorney for the city of Baltimore says it is ready and willing to enter into a court-enforceable agreement to implement sweeping reforms to the city's troubled police department.

Baltimore's solicitor David Ralph said at a public hearing on Thursday that when the city, police department and federal government negotiated the plan, it was designed to fight crime and protect civil rights.

Ralph also said the consent decree includes crucial provisions that call for new technology and resources for the department. Signing the agreement will send a strong message to the community that reforms are quickly happening.

An attorney for the Justice Department says the agency has "grave concerns" about a proposed agreement.

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10:15 a.m.

An attorney for the Justice Department says the agency has "grave concerns" about a proposed agreement to overhaul the Baltimore Police Department.

Justice Department attorney John Gore told a judge Thursday that newly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions is concerned about the agreement and "whether it will achieve the goals of public safety and law enforcement while at the same time protecting civil rights."

Gore said that given the crime spike in Baltimore, the government wants more time to make sure any agreed upon remedy "will help rather than hinder public safety." He says those concerns "are not limited to Baltimore."

On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected a Justice Department request to delay Thursday's hearing.

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9:30 a.m.

Scores of Baltimore residents have taken their seats in a federal courtroom in Baltimore for the first public comment hearing on a proposed agreement to overhaul the city's police department. The hearing is now underway.

U.S. District Judge James Bredar, who's overseeing the proceedings, on Wednesday rejected a request from the Justice Department to delay the hearing, saying any postponement would be a "burden and inconvenience" to the court, and to the public.

Last month, a dozen organizations and about 50 individual residents submitted written comments, critiques and recommendations on the proposed consent decree. Thursday's hearing will be the first opportunity for residents to publicly voice their concerns.

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8 a.m.

Hundreds of Baltimore residents are expected to show up to offer commentary, critiques and recommendations regarding a proposed agreement to overhaul the city's troubled police force.

A judge on Wednesday denied a request to delay the hearing, calling the request by President Donald Trump's administration a "burden and inconvenience."

The Justice Department asked for a delay earlier this week, saying it needed time to review the plan and determine whether the proposal would hinder efforts to fight violent crime. U.S. District Judge James Bredar said the hearing would go on as scheduled Thursday.

Last month, a dozen organizations and roughly 50 residents submitted nearly 200 pages of written comments on the proposed agreement. Bredar said in his order he anticipates scores of residents to show up to speak, and that all other dockets have been cleared for the day.