DOJ has been monitoring Baltimore's policing methods for more than a year
Report: One African-American man was stopped 30 times in five years without an arrest
A Justice Department investigation found that the Baltimore Police Department engages in unconstitutional practices that lead to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests of African-Americans, and excessive use of force against juveniles and people with mental health disabilities.
The Department of Justice monitored the department’s policing methods for more than a year at the request of the Baltimore Police Department, after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury while in police custody.
The long-awaited report, which covered data from 2010 to 2016, attributed the practices to “systemic deficiencies” in training, policies, and accountability structures that “fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively.”
Gray’s death touched off protests and riots in Baltimore and beyond, fueling ongoing debate over racial bias in policing that has drawn the Justice Department’s attention. Though the report does not directly reference the actions of officers in the Gray case, it notes that “recent events” underscored the importance of mutual trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, a recurring theme in DOJ investigations of police departments following police-involved deaths of African-Americans.
A DOJ investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department after the shooting death of Michael Brown reached a similar conclusion: a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans that targeted them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force, and jail sentences. So did the investigation after the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, concluding that Cleveland police have a pattern of excessive force.
The legacy of Gray’s death continues to loom large over the city. The federal civil rights report comes weeks after charges were dropped against the remaining officers facing trial in Gray’s death.
As a result of the probe, the city and the Justice Department have agreed to negotiate a court-ordered consent decree that will prescribe steps for reform, in addition to steps Baltimore already has taken, city and federal officials told reporters in Baltimore on Wednesday. In June, the department announced an overhaul of its use of force policy.
“Change is painful. Growth is painful. But nothing is as painful as being stuck in a place that we do not belong,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
Here are some of the report’s highlights:
Unconstitutional stops and arrests
The report blamed “zero tolerance” enforcement practices that emphasized stops, searches and arrests for repeated violations of constitutional rights that eroded the community’s trust.