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Mikulski Talks Federal Criminal Justice Reforms

Christopher Connelly/WYPR
Sen. Barbara Mikulski talked with faith leaders from Clergy United to Transform Sandtown at First Mt. Calvary Baptist Church on Monday.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski was in Sandtown Monday to talk with clergy about criminal justice reforms at the federal level, and discussed measures being considered in the Senate aimed at strengthening police-community relations.

Mikulski is the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations committee.  That committee gave approval last week to a spending bill that includes initiatives Mikulski thinks can improve policing. She said the protests following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custodies put light to a problem that exists in communities across the nation.

“It is a Baltimore problem and it is a national problem that there is a trust gap between the people and the police department,” Mikulski said.

The reforms would require local police departments applying for federal grants to outline what kind of training officers get in use of force, identifying racial and ethnic bias, and de-escalating conflicts. There are also measures to fund community policing programs and body cameras, and to improve department reporting of officer involved shootings.

The spending bill still needs approval by the full Senate and the House. Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin plan to introduce a more sweeping criminal justice reform bill later this week.

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.