AFRICANGLOBE – The Justice Department on Wednesday issued a scathing report against the Baltimore Police Department, alleging systemic discrimination against the city’s Black residents.
It includes violations of the First and Fourth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee free speech and the right against undue search and seizure, respectively, as well as violations of federal anti-discrimination laws.
“These violations have deeply eroded the mutual trust between BPD [Baltimore Police Department] and the community it serves, trust that is essential to effective policing, as well as officer and public safety,” Justice Department civil rights head Vanita Gupta said at a press conference marking the report’s release.
The 163-page report chronicled the police department’s “unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; using excessive force; and retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”
“In some cases, supervisors have issued explicitly discriminatory orders, such as directing a shift to arrest ‘all the black hoodies’ in a neighborhood,” the report said.
Despite making up 64 percent of the city’s population, Blacks accounted for approximately 91 percent of those charged with “failure to obey” or “trespassing”, 89 percent of those charged with lying to an officer and 84 percent of “disorderly conduct” arrests.
Blacks were also arrested at a rate five times that of other races for drug possession, according to the report.
The report says that the city’s “zero tolerance” policy, which dates back to the 1990s, has in part contributed to the current situation.
The city and the Justice Department have agreed to work jointly “to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation,” according to the department.
Baltimore became a flashpoint of civil unrest after the April 2015 death of Black resident Freddie Gray who died while in police custody. Gray’s spine was severed as he was riding shackled, without a seatbelt, in the back of a police van.
All six officers charged in Gray’s death have been acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pledged in a statement to revamp the city’s approach to police accountability “including the way that the use of force by officers is reviewed and how officers are disciplined.”
“Over the next few months, we will put in place a concrete plan for change and a new culture – for the good of the city, the Police Department and the people it protects,” she said.
Six offers have been fired this year, according to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
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