The Baltimore Police Department on Friday issued departmentwide guidance to its officers to resume citations and arrests for low-level offenses, ranging from drug possession to minor traffic offenses, without a supervisor needing to sign off on it. The directives come a few days after the initiative by the new state’s attorney was set to begin.

A memo issued by acting Police Commissioner Rich Worley, which was reviewed by The Baltimore Banner, lays out in detail how officers should carry out enforcement for a variety of so-called “quality of life” offenses, including minor traffic offenses, open container violations and urinating in public. It is dated for Saturday, despite being issued Friday.

The guidance reverts to an internal policy guiding “lesser offenses” that requires additional sign-off from supervisors and other circumstances, including a threat to the life, safety or property of themselves or others, in order to make an arrest.

The changes in guidance represent the reversal of policies to prohibit citations and arrests for low-level offenses first enacted by former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In March 2021, Mosby announced the indefinite continuation of those policies.

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State’s Attorney Ivan Bates vowed to resume enforcement, making it a central part of his campaign platform. He announced the details of the initiative at the beginning of the month.

The memo by the Baltimore Police Department reminds officers not to issue citations or make arrests while “engaged in discriminatory policing” and reiterates that they must have “probable cause to believe that a person has committed or is committing a criminal infraction or citable offense.”

The low-level offenses that officers may resume arrests for without approval include drug possession, attempted distribution of controlled substances, paraphernalia possession, prostitution, minor traffic offenses and others.

The “lesser offenses” that still require approval for arrests include loitering, misdemeanor trespassing, public urination/defecation, disorderly conduct, obstructing or hindering an officer, open container and littering.

The details of how the low-level enforcement policies would be carried out were a frequent subject at state’s attorney and police budget hearings earlier this month.

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Reporters Justin Fenton and Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this report.

Ben Conarck is a criminal justice reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Previously, he covered healthcare and investigations for the Miami Herald and criminal justice for the Florida Times-Union.

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