We hear a lot of bad things about Baltimore City and the Baltimore City Police Department. Many will argue that the key to fighting violence and crime is through our communities. HBO recently released a documentary called Baltimore Rising, following both sides of the uprising and the aftermath of Freddie Gray and the police trials. The Community Collaboration Division (CCD) and it’s creator, Chief Melvin Russel, as well as the Homicide Unit, were featured in the film. I recommend it to give some context as to what the police are doing to improve relations, as well as to enrich your knowledge of the CCD.
The CCD was created to improve relations between the community and the police. The BPD’s website states:
Its mission is to create citywide partnerships between law enforcement, residents, schools, faith-based organizations, non-profits, businesses, and the media in an effort to build relational trust and reduce crime. The division’s anchor programs include Baltimore Police Law Enforcement Explorers, prisoner re-entry, and the faith community. It represents the BPD through the Office of Youth Violence Prevention – Baltimore City Health Department, Senator Ben Cardin’s Reentry Task Force, the Mayor’s Office of Human Services Reentry Program, Office of Justice Programs, Boy Scouts of America, and various ethnic and cultural groups throughout Baltimore City.
The four pillars through which CCD operates are Faith, Community, Reentry, and Youth. While Baltimore Rising depicts some of the PD’s outreach to the African-American community, they are also focusing on outreach to the LGBT community as well. Sergeant Bailey is currently launching a safe-places outreach for LGBT citizens. Officers in the CCD attend community meetings, workshops, events like the Day of Hope.
The CCD collaborates with religious leaders of all faiths. They serve as a voice for their community and a bridge between their community and officers. They provide a listening ear for the officers as well. Faith leaders participate in ride-a-longs and help patrol officers to mediate issues that may arise.
CCD has a team of officers who partner with the Department of Corrections in working with individuals with criminal backgrounds and help to find them the resources to reduce their likelihood of recidivism. They provide resources for behavioral health, employment training and job skills, and housing. They also participate in re-entry fairs throughout the city.
Their re-entry program consists of:
- Pre-and Post-Release case management with returning citizens
- Collaboration with service providers and employers for wrap-around services
- Community Outreach Transition Resource Initiative (CORE TRI)
- Behind-the-walls call-ins
- Partnership with Fatherhood and Motherhood Mentoring Programs
In order to connect with the youth groups in the city, the CCD focuses mostly on partnering with schools and summer camps. Each district has an Explorers Program (see a short video about it here), with a total of 125 groups throughout the city, which focuses on character development and career development in law enforcement.
One aspect of the CCD which left our citizens’ class puzzled was that the division’s personnel has suffered a drastic cutback this year, from 65 officers to just 7 (seven!). We were reassured that they would soon be up to 16 officers. Sure enough, at the end of the Baltimore Rising documentary, an update revealed that 80% of Chief Russel’s CCD officers were “reassigned to violent crime.” On the surface, given the city’s violent crime rates and budget constraints, this is understandable. However, this division is one that goes to the heart of the changes that the BPD is trying to make for the long-term good of the city. Indeed, this September, the DOJ granted $750,000 to the BPD for CCD’s Re-entry Program.