Justice Department Report Reveals Systemic Discrimination, Excessive Force, More in Baltimore PD

A new Justice Department report on the Baltimore police finds systemic discrimination, excessive force, civil rights violations, and more.

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The Justice Department will release a long-awaited report on Wednesday about the Baltimore Police Department. The government investigation, started in the wake of Freddie Gray's death in 2015, will reveal that the department routinely used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops, and engaged in retaliation against people engaged in lawful free expression.

The 164 page report, which can be read here, found that the cops used "enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans." It goes into detail about department-wide problems with unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests. A mere 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops ended in a citation or an arrest.

The Justice Department also found "many instances in which officers strip search individuals without legal justification"—including times this took place in public. They also found that officers made over 11,000 charges between 2010-2015 that were found to have no probable cause. They were likewise clear that police targeting of particular neighborhoods "disproportionately harms African-American residents."

While the report is not about the Freddie Gray case specifically, it does note that the BPD has "transport practices that place detainees who are being transported at significant risk of harm." They also found evidence that police "routinely fail" to secure arrestees with seatbelts.

The report also points out that the BPD frequently violates the First Amendment by arresting people who are critical of the police. The investigation found that the department "improperly interferes with individuals who record police activity." 

It also finds "gender bias" in the department's response to sexual assault.

"[O]fficers and detectives...often question victims in a manner that puts the blame for the sexual assault on the victim's shoulders," it says. It also found "an undue skepticism of reports of sexual assault" and that the BPD "seriously and systematically under-investigates reports of sexual assault." In addition, the department "disregards reports of sexual assault by people involved in the sex trade—a particularly troubling trend given the vulnerability of those individuals to rape."

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told the Baltimore Sun that the report will help him repair the department.

"We have begun this journey to reform long-standing issues in many real, tangible ways," he said. "DOJ's findings will serve to solidify our road map."

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