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U.S. Department of Justice: Baltimore Police Have Routinely Discriminated Against Blacks for Years

By Staff

 

POlice BaltimoreThe U.S. Department of Justice has released a report which finds the Baltimore Police Department has used excessive force, and routinely discriminated against blacks for years.

According to the DOJ, the city’s back residents have represented 95 percent of the 410 individuals stopped at least 10 times in the five and a half years of data reviewed.

The report also found that, although blacks have represented 63 percent of Baltimore’s residents, 91 percent of people arrested for minor offenses such as “failure to obey” or “trespassing” have been African-Americans.

In addition, blacks make up 60 percent of Baltimore’s drivers, however, they’ve accounted for 82 percent of traffic stops.

During the same time period, the report also found that officers stopped 34 black residents 20 times, and seven African-Americans 30 times or more.

No individuals of any other race were stopped more than 12 times.

As a result of the findings, the Justice Department is now in the preliminary stages of reaching a “consent decree” with the police department, in which the state’s police practices will be completely overhauled under court-mandated, federal supervision.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and Police Commissioner Ken Davis, said Wednesday the report signified the need for sweeping changes.

“I never sugarcoat our problems, nor will I run away from our most pressing challenges,” Rawlings-Blake stated. “I believe transparency is the only true foundation upon which we can rebuild community trust.”

“Fighting crime and having a better, more respectful relationship with the community are not mutually exclusive endeavors,” Davis added. “We don’t have to choose one or the other. We’re choosing both. It’s 2016.”

Maryland’s American Civil Liberties Union has also released the following statement regarding the matter:

“The Department of Justice findings on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) document in devastating detail what Baltimoreans have decried for years: Baltimore’s black residents are racially-profiled, harassed, stopped, searched, arrested, and assaulted by police, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Baltimore residents subjected to these abuses have included children and teens, the elderly and individuals in crisis.

Worse still, community members are both structurally and intentionally thwarted from holding officers, including school police who often operate collaboratively with BPD officers, accountable for violating their rights.

Critically, the DOJ report draws attention to the total lack of supervision and accountability that has allowed abuses to flourish unchecked within the BPD. As an organization that also advocates for fair student discipline and works with coalitions tracking school-based arrests, we are equally concerned by the findings that Baltimore School Police operate as an auxiliary law enforcement agency of the BPD.

The DOJ findings are a long overdue memorialization of the experience of generations of black communities in the city. But, without the commitment of law enforcement, the City Council, and the mayor’s office to a fundamental overhaul of the department, and current accountability structures, the findings will not translate to meaningful change in the everyday lives of Baltimore’s residents.

Moreover, while the external accountability that comes with DOJ oversight is promising, law enforcement must ultimately be accountable to the communities it serves. So, as the DOJ and city leaders negotiate a consent decree, we urge them to support Baltimore’s residents playing a central role in both crafting and implementing reforms.”

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