What We Can Learn from Baltimore Police Chief Ganesha Martin
Across the nation, cities are working to improve law enforcement and community relations through transparency and innovation. No one knows this better than Ganesha Martin, who serves as the Chief of the Department of Justice Compliance and Accountability/External Affairs at the Baltimore Police Department. Martin was named to the position in summer 2015, just months after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. Following this tragic event, the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore jointly filed a consent decree calling for major changes to how law enforcement officers are trained and engage with individuals on the street. As of last week, it appears that the partnership will continue to move forward regardless of the DOJ’s change in leadership.
Chief Martin, a Texan who began her career practicing law, has worked in the Baltimore mayor’s office and previously served as the Chief of Staff to Baltimore’s Police Commissioner. She supported the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Baltimore’s policing tactics, and is working to institute significant reforms to the police department.
“The community voice must be heard and become a part of new policies and reform set forward,” said Chief Martin.
The city wants “a constant flow of information from the department to the community: ‘This is what we’re doing. This is how we want to do it. What do you think? How are you feeling?’…I do not want it to be a consent decree from up on high,” Chief Martin said.
Consistent community engagement — not just during times of crisis — is key.
Initial improvements are already underway: the Baltimore Police Department engages citizens in discussions about the kind of data to be released, participates in Open Baltimore, the city’s open data site, and maintains Open & Transparent, a site devoted to documenting policies and procedures, and providing context around topics such as use of force and officer involved shootings.
“If you change the culture of the Police Department, you can’t help but change the trajectory of a city,” said Martin.
To hear more from Chief Ganesha Martin, register for Socrata Connect, where she’ll be speaking on Excellence Through Accountability.