City Council study finds no police quota system

Report scrutinized `performance enhancement program' on force


News from around the Baltimore region

September 17, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

A City Council report released yesterday concluded that the Baltimore Police Department does not have arrest quotas and recommended that officials make it easier for people to expunge their records when they are arrested but never formally charged with a crime.

A City Council subcommittee scrutinized these two topics after news reports highlighted complaints from the police union over the inner workings of a "performance enhancement program" for officers.

"When we looked at what the enhancement program was doing, never in any way did it say, `You had to have quotas,'" said Councilman James B. Kraft, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which wrote the report. "It was a perception issue, clearly, but there was no basis in fact."

Prison advocates, City Council members and some state delegates had voiced concern over the large number of people arrested each month in the city for "quality of life" crimes such as loitering. Those who do not have identification, and thus cannot be issued a citation, are being taken to the often-crowded Central Booking and Intake Center to be fingerprinted and processed.

Prosecutors routinely refuse to proceed with cases such as loitering. In June, prosecutors declined to press charges against 630 people arrested on loitering and similar charges. Of those cases, 618 were thrown out because prosecutors said they could not prove the case.

There are about 1,600 arrests each month that do not result in a person being charged with a crime, the report said.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the City Council's report yesterday.

"The ACLU is deeply concerned that the report does not acknowledge the pattern of unlawful arrests and detentions that have affected thousands of residents in Baltimore City," said David Rocah of the ACLU.

The report says that reforms are needed to make it easier for people arrested but not charged to clear their records.

Long after people are released from jail, their fingerprints and other personal information remain in criminal justice databases as an arrest.

The report calls for amending state law to allow arrests without charges in Baltimore to be automatically expunged.

It also asks the Police Department to submit a plan on how to decrease the number of people being brought to Central Booking for identification, and develop alternatives to arrest for nuisance and quality-of-life crimes.

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