The U.S. Department of Justice released the results of a months-long probe by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), finding troubling evidence of unconstitutional practices.
The report asserts that BPD engages in a pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, excessive force, retaliation, and enforcement strategies that produce disparate outcomes among African Americans. The report blames “systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, supervision, and accountability structures,” as responsible for the troubling outcomes.
“Public trust is critical to effective policing and public safety,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Our investigation found that Baltimore is a city where the bonds of trust have been broken, and that the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful and unconstitutional conduct, ranging from the use of excessive force to unjustified stops, seizures and arrests. The results of our investigation raise serious concerns, and in the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to ensure that all Baltimoreans enjoy the safety, security and dignity they expect and deserve.”
The probe found that nearly half of BPD’s 300,000 pedestrian stops between 2010 and 2015 occurred in two, majority-African American districts. Statistics suggest an African American male continuously residing in, or frequenting the district, would have been stopped at least 10 times during this period. Seven men reported they had been stopped over 30 times.
On another occasion, investigators recovered a template report advising officers on how to correctly file a trespassing arrest. The template automatically identified the arrestee as “BLACK MALE.” (RELATED: Cop Cleared In Freddie Gray Case gets $127,000)
“The supervisor’s template thus presumes that individuals arrested for trespassing will be African-American,” the report says.
African Americans also compromise the overwhelming majority of misdemeanor charges in the last five years according to police reports. Blacks compromised 91 percent of trespassing charges, 91 percent of failure to obey charges, 88 percent of hindering charges, and 84 percent of disorderly conduct charges. Ninety-nine percent of all arrests for misdemeanor gambling offenses, including “gaming,” or playing “cards or dice,” were black. A helicopter unit called “Foxtrot” was also committed by BPD to patrol for violations of the Maryland gambling code.
Federal investigators also accused the department of gender bias in the handling of sex crimes, citing language used by officers and prosecutors. “This case is crazy … I am not excited about charging it. This victim seems like a conniving little whore. (pardon my language),” one email from a prosecutor reviewed by DOJ read. A BPD officer replied, “Lmao! I feel the same.” The report also indicates officers have put questions to alleged victims of sexual assault such as, “Why are you messing that guy’s life up?”
“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, promising to remove officers who engage in discriminatory policing.
Baltimore police and civil leaders undertook a collaborative reform process beginning in Oct. 2014 with DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Final revisions to BPD practice have not yet been announced.
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