In June 2014, Baltimore police held a news conference to demonstrate their commitment to transparency amid growing distrust after a number of allegations of police brutality.
They created a Force Investigation Team to look into all incidents in which officers used deadly force or when an interaction with police resulted in serious injuries. They pledged to publicly release reports of the internal investigations on their website.
Nine months later, seven reports have been released out of 40 incidents logged in 2014 and 2015. The last report the agency released is for an incident that took place in July.
Asked this week why more reports haven’t been released, the Police Department did not provide a response.
In early February, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts cited the FIT database as part of the agency’s effort to become more transparent. Asked then why police had posted so few reports, he called the process an “evolution” and said the website should be viewed as a step forward.
“We’re heading in the right direction, we’re doing the right things,” he said. “As we evolve and continue to evolve, we will get better at the things that we do, but we’re going in the right direction so you should give us some credit.”
Excessive-force complaints have dropped by nearly half since 2012, he said.
Batts said police shooting and use-of-force cases take time to investigate and determining whether officers followed both the law and police protocol can be complicated.
Back then, Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said FIT reports are “completed in various stages” but that doesn’t mean they can be released. The posting of reports on the website is the last step after the reports are reviewed by a Force Review Board, prosecutors and the commissioner.
“The publication of that [report] is the absolute last step, so they’re moving along,” Rodriguez said. “We want them to be expeditious as possible, but we want to also make sure that they’re accurate.”
At the time, Rodriguez noted that police publicly identify officers involved in use-of-force incidents after 48 hours and that the department was moving toward naming those officers in the FIT reports, too.
“It’s a work in progress,” Rodriguez said of the agency’s efforts.
This year, incidents being investigated include the shooting of a man police say wrestled with an officer after trying to escape arrest, the killing of a man police say was swinging a knife at a birthday party and refused to comply with orders, an in-custody death of a man who collapsed from what police say was a pre-existing medical condition more than an hour after a foot chase, the shooting of a man after a traffic stop where video surveillance showed him charging an officer, and an off-duty officer’s gun discharging.