After-action report on police shooting in Baltimore club

In response to the police-involved shootings at Select Lounge in the City of Baltimore on January 9, 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, III appointed an Independent Review Board and charged it with examining the related policies, procedures, and actions of the police department. The Board met seven times from March through September 2011.

The Independent Review Board (IRB) reviewed the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) homicide investigation and a video of the incident; interviewed witnesses and key personnel; examined BPD policies and procedures relating to officers’ use of lethal force; reviewed analysis of prior police-involved shootings; reviewed the incident reconstruction; and identified policy violations that occurred.

The police-involved shooting on January 9, 2011 resulted in two deaths and four people wounded. It provides a clear example of how the authority that police have to use lethal force can carry the heaviest of responsibilities and consequences. The IRB’s comprehensive review documents a number of mistakes that cascaded through the entire incident, which ultimately resulted in the use of lethal force. These mistakes ranged from a lack of incident management and failures in proper police identification by a plainclothes officer to questionable discipline of the uniformed officers who fired their weapons. In addition, the police department’s approach in handling both the incident at Select Lounge and the investigation of the shootings may have played a role in reducing the public’s confidence in the investigation.

The Board believes that these findings and recommendations, if considered and incorporated by BPD, can assist the police department and the City of Baltimore in making important changes to current policies and procedures on crowd control, plainclothes officer protocols, the use of lethal force, incident management, homicide and internal investigations, and relations and interactions with the community they serve.

Among the Board’s recommendations:

  • The department should develop a protocol for how to deal with disorders in crowded bars and provide regular training for officers and supervisors.
  • The department should re-evaluate procedures for officers working undercover, and require that they identify themselves immediately when involved in enforcement actions.
  • Use-of-force procedures should be re-evaluated for crowded situations, and officers trained in how to limit use of force.
  • An organized response plan should be developed for incidents at crowded bar and club scenes to avoid confusion among backup units.