The Baltimore Police Department has the city spending board’s unanimous approval to ink a three-year, $2.5 million contract with a Chicago-based policing analytics firm for a data monitoring system that will keep tabs on “potentially problematic behaviors” by officers.
The so-called “early intervention system” is one of many requirements of the 2017 federal consent decree that the Police Department has yet to fulfill. The systems, which are in place in many major metropolitan law enforcement agencies, work by monitoring data on officer activity and flagging certain metrics, such as traffic stops, citizen complaints and uses of force.
The $2.5 million spending request was added to the city’s Board of Estimates agenda on Tuesday to expedite approval. The contract with Benchmark Analytics is set to begin immediately and will run to Sept. 6, 2026.
At the Wednesday hearing, Deputy Commissioner Eric Melancon stressed the importance of the monitoring system in satisfying the department’s consent decree. He said the tool is not intended to be used punitively, but to “get in front of officers’ behavior” before misconduct happens.
Mayor Brandon Scott, who sponsored legislation calling on the department to implement an early intervention system during his time on the City Council, welcomed the move Wednesday as “a long, long, long time coming.”
If such a system would have been in place years ago, Scott said, the city might have been able to proactively address some of the police misconduct that have led to civil rights lawsuits, with taxpayers footing the bill.
Even with the lengthy delays in acquiring the system, some of the data that would feed into it is not yet being uniformly reported or collected by Baltimore officers, a problem that police leaders have attributed to lingering issues with another electronic system used by the department: the Axon “records management system.”
The problems with data collection have proven to be significant speed bumps as the Police Department continues to push toward exiting the decree after more than six years of court supervision.
The records management system’s problems have resulted in delays in producing stop-and-search data that would show whether Baltimore police officers have moved beyond stopping and searching more Black residents than white counterparts.
In contrast to the lengthy process in Baltimore, other major metropolitan departments under court supervision have produced the data in a few years. Police leadership, meanwhile, has attributed the lag to how outdated and outmoded records and data collection were when the agency first entered the consent decree in 2017.
At a quarterly consent decree hearing late last month, Judge James K. Bredar pressed the upper brass of the Police Department on the delays, saying it was past time to move beyond the phase of the consent decree where the bulk of the work involved writing new policies and implementing new training for officers.
Collecting and reporting data, the judge and the DOJ agreed, is where the department continues to fall short.
Toward the end of the hearing, Melancon answered that the Police Department had identified the early intervention system they planned to use. Once it is set up, Melancon said, the agency would have to implement a new round of training to teach supervisors how it works.