BREAKING: Dept of Justice SLAMS Police for “Systematic” Discrimination and Violations of Constitution
Major changes are in the works for the Baltimore Police Department following a scathing report Wednesday by the Department of Justice on its investigation of systematic discrimination and constitutional rights violations.
Joining the DOJ’s civil rights head outside city hall this morning to unveil the 164-page report this morning, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake estimated that the changes will cost the city between $5 million and $10 million.
It was Rawlings-Blake who invited the DOJ to investigate last year after the death of Freddie Gray incited riots across the city.
Gray, 25, died in police custody after sustaining a fatal spinal cord injury during transport to the police station after his arrest.
Though the city charged six officers in connection to Gray’s death, the prosecution concluded unsuccessfully last month.
After failing to secure convictions in four cases, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s team dropped remaining charges against the other officers on July 27.
Baltimore meanwhile reached a $6.4 million settlement with Gray’s family, and today’s report by the Justice Department marks the first formal step toward its consent decree with the U.S. government, a process that will include a sweeping overhaul of police practices under the oversight of a federal judge.
Black residents make up more than 60 percent of the of the city’s population of 622,000, and the report finds that this group was disproportionally affected by unlawful traffic stops, searches and arrests.
Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis signed an agreement in principle in connection to the report that outlines reforms Baltimore must implement to avoid litigation under the Safe Streets Act of 2010 or other applicable laws.
The mayor Blake removed Davis’ predecessor, Anthony Batts, from office last year after the massive protests over Gray’s death brought national attention to a spike in violent crime already gripping the city.
Davis has already implemented changes to the department’s policies since his appointment last year and said his department is committed to the process of the investigation and the changes that need to be made.
In the last year, Davis said, he has fired at least six officers who had been found to have used excessive force. The department has also adopted a body-camera pilot program.
Gupta said “the agreement had both sides working together” to get community input on the consent decree, the implementation of which will be overseen by a federal judge.
Reading from the executive summary of the report, Gupta discussed the investigation and findings including the department’s “legacy of ‘zero tolerance’ street enforcement, along with deficient policies, training and accountability systems, resulted in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination law.”
The agreement reflects the city and DOJ’s “commitment to work together and with the many communities that make up the city to ensure that the BPD delivers services in a manner that respects the rights of residents, increases trust between officers and the communities they serve, and promotes public and officer safety.”
Changes that the settlement contemplates include “providing additional trainings in crucial areas including fair and impartial policing; committing resources to enhance BPD’s crisis intervention program; retrofitting prisoner transport vehicles; and committing additional officers to the Community Collaboration Division to enhance BPD’s community policing efforts. BPD is taking initial steps toward enhancing accountability and transparency throughout the Department.”
The overhaul will focus on policy, training, and data collection and analysis; making sure the department’s policies for stop, searches and arrests are consistent with current law; ending discriminatory practices; use of force policy; protection of resident’s First; response to reports of sexual assaults; increased supervision, accountability, and coordination; improvements in technology and infrastructure; increased officer support and the consent decree with have “judicial enforceability, independent monitoring,” to ensure accountability for the process.
Baltimore and the DOJ will formally file consent decree in court by Nov. 1.
Today’s report says poor training and supervision created a situation in the BPD where “frayed community relationships inhibit effective policing by denying officers important sources of information and placing them more frequently in dangerous, adversarial encounters.”
Showing how officers disproportionately stopped black pedestrians, the report highlights one case where a black man in his mid-50s was stopped 30 times in less than four years but never charged with an offense.
Investigators say the frequency of arrests without probable cause is reflected in the fact that more than 11,000 individuals arrested in 2010 were either never formally charged or the state’s attorneys declined to prosecute.
As part of the settlement, Baltimore and the DOJ have agreed in principle to identify “categories of reforms the parties agree must be taken to remedy the violations of the Constitution and federal law described in this report.”
Published by Courthouse News Service.