The wheels are in motion to get the Civilian Review Board, the citizen-run independent police oversight agency, started in Baltimore—semi-formally announced on the day the CRB was supposed to meet for the first time.
OK, some background: Last week, Mayor Catherine Pugh's office gave us the runaround when we asked for names and details about the Civilian Review Board, which it turned out did not exist yet. Then, Jill Carter, director of the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, told us she was confident it would come together and that she had sent candidate recommendations to Pugh a month earlier.
Pugh's spokesperson, Anthony McCarthy, told us that the mayor was working on it and that it would all be sorted out before the CRB meeting scheduled for April 20. McCarthy did not answer follow-up questions about the nomination process—questions about the names Carter submitted to Pugh, whether people would be prepared to attend the scheduled April 20 meeting, whether the nominees had been briefed on the process, and about contacting nominees.
Early this morning, Carter said she knew today's meeting would be canceled but said she was told letters had indeed been sent out, indicating that the ball was rolling.
At a press conference highlighting the Community Oversight Task Force, Pugh publicized a new website dedicated to all things related to the consent decree but offered few details on the Civilian Review Board, even after The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Rector asked about it. He and the rest of the reporters at the presser were told they could get the names from City Council.
Rector later tweeted out the names, which he got from City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young. They are: Dr. Danielle Carter Kushner (East), Blair Thompson (Southeast), Andrew Reinel (South), Dr. Melvin Currie (Southwest), Dr. Bridal Pearson (North), Danielle Williamson (Central), Leslie Parker Blyther (West), Frederick Jackson (Northwest), and Michael Ross (Northeast).
Carter confirmed with City Paper that those names are "among [her] recommendations of persons who meet the requirements."
A source in City Hall who asked not to be named told City Paper that the announcement of the CRB was rushed and seemingly an afterthought, even into this morning.
City Paper has learned that at least two of the nominees were not told they had been recommended for the board.
Following Pugh's press conference, Carter sent City Paper a proposed timeline for the CRB approval process: Nominees will be announced April 24; a City Council hearing, where the names of the nominees will be presented to the whole council, will happen on May 3; a second hearing, after the Executive Committee votes, is set for May 8; and a final approval is scheduled for May 15. After that will be the first CRB meeting.
Among other things, this means that what McCarthy told City Paper back on April 11—that the scheduled April 20 meeting would go as planned—was pretty much an impossibility since the approval of the CRB nominees requires multiple City Council hearings. City Paper reached out to McCarthy about this and he has not yet responded.
City Paper also reached out to grassroots group Baltimore Bloc, which had four members apply to be on the board (one of them, Ralikh Hayes, applied and then was asked to reapply as he described here); none of them were chosen.
"We're disappointed in the lack of transparency around the selection process, especially since the CRB is supposed to increase transparency and trust. We are also disappointed that the activist community is almost completely missing from the board, despite several longtime community activists having applied," Baltimore Bloc said in a written statement. "For the CRB to be effective, it needs to be adjusted according to the suggestions Jill Carter and many others have been making. The composition and structure of the current board would seem to indicate that the mayor and administration aren't really taking seriously the need for civilian oversight. We aren't surprised."