Interns with the Baltimore Police Department are suggesting a multitude of policing reforms after a 10-week internship program this summer.
Eight interns took part in the program sponsored by the Washington-based think tank, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), to look into making improvements with the agency.
The interns from Coppin State and Morgan State received a $10,000 stipend for their work focusing on recruiting and community policing reforms, among others.
According to PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler, the internship programs are designed to bring young people of color together with law enforcement leaders to learn about their perspectives on policing.
During her capstone presentation, intern Yasmine Bryant suggested several reforms, including strengthening the department’s victims’ services unit.
“Her only child was killed … and she had no updates on the case of her baby boy,” the third-year Morgan State University student said in her presentation. “This is a problem.”
Bryant was referring to the lack of transparency and communication between homicide detectives and grieving family members looking for closure.
During the program, each intern was tasked with identifying a problem and proposing a solution within policing.
Interns were assigned to various departments, including recruitment, training, forensics, information technology, government affairs and victim services.
Some solutions proposed embracing new technologies, recruiting more women and members of local communities, building relationships with the youth and safeguarding against cyber attacks.
“I have some of the best and brightest in the world working in the Baltimore Police Department, but we’re always moving at 100 mph,” Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told the interns. “Your fresh eyes allowed us to see a gap, a hole, something that needs to be improved upon.”
Wexler hopes the internship will not only benefit the police department, but will give interns valuable insight into the law enforcement career and the daily operations of police.
During her presentation, Bryant suggested the department conduct a survey of gun violence victims and ask them about their opinions.
She cited a report released this year that found that Baltimore police officers routinely treat victims poorly, dehumanizing and alienating them, especially Black men and youth. Bryant said that improving these interactions is key to restoring public trust.
Chief Equity Officer for the City of Baltimore Dana Petersen Moore agreed with Bryant’s idea and believes such a survey is feasible.
The BPD also announced recently that they would expand victim services and train more officers on trauma-informed care following the report mentioned by Bryant.
The department also said they would try to address trauma experienced by officers on the job.
Other interns proposed that the forensics department catalog evidence digitally instead of by hand on carbon copy forms, referring to messy handwriting causing issues.
“There are some individuals in jail right now due to inaccurate information on the paper form,” intern Jasmine Slide said.
Interns also recommended streamlining the records-keeping system for job applications and background checks, as well as cooperating with city agencies to create more recreational opportunities.
Coppin State graduate Albert Johnson, a prospective police officer himself, recommended including women in the Gun Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) program launched this year.
The GVRS assigns law enforcement members and social service providers to individuals at high risk of engaging in gun violence to prevent shootings, but women are often not included in the “high risk” category.
Commissioner Harrison said that while the department is considering the recommendations, it’s not clear they have the budget to make the changes happen.