Federal report blasts Baltimore police

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has engaged in tactics that violate the First and Fourth Amendments and numerous anti-discrimination laws, according to a report released by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) on Aug. 10. The report is centered on the use of excessive force and illegal stops, seizures and searches, especially within the African American community. Most at fault for the systemic discrimination, the DoJ said, are "deficient policies, training and accountability systems," including the "zero-tolerance" street enforcement. A variety of statistics were used to highlight the problem within the Baltimore force, including a finding that African Americans accounted for over 80% of all BPD vehicle stops, despite white individuals being found with contraband twice as often.

The report also found cause to believe that the BPD has engaged in discrimination against those with mental health disabilities and those seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to free expression. The DoJ and BPD entered into an agreement in principle (PDF) wherein the BPD will perform new training, data collection and community policing, and BPD will create a better technology and infrastructure to monitor abuses of authority by police officers. The DoJ's report follows the death of Freddie Gray and ensuing protests in 2015.

The remaining officers indicted in Freddie Gray's death recently had their charges dropped. The State's Attorney for Baltimore City in May 2015 announced the indictment of the police officers on charges including murder and manslaughter over the death Gray. Gray's arrest and death in April of last year led to widespread protests and civil disorder in the city of Baltimore (and contributed to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement). In September Baltimore reached a tentative agreement with Gray's family to pay $6.4 million in settlement. In April of last year Amnesty International urged Baltimore police to exercise restraint during protests, and limit the use of force.

From Jurist, Aug. 11. Used with permission.