The Department of Justice has issued a scathing 163-page report finding that the policies and practices of the Baltimore Police Department systematically violate the civil rights of black residents. In the report, the DOJ describes how the Baltimore Police Department consistently conducted searches and arrests with little to no probable cause, meticulously buried citizen complaints of racial discrimination, and failed to investigate sexual assaults of sex workers— even committing these assaults themselves— as well as a host of other inexcusable offenses.
Despite the fact that African Americans make up only 63 percent of the city’s population, the report found that 91 percent of those arrested for “the most discretionary offenses,” such as “failure to obey” or “trespassing” were black. In fact, the template used by one shift commander to train officers on how to write up trespass arrests was pre-marked with the description “BLACK MALE.” Of the 410 individuals stopped more than 10 times in the last five years, 95 percent were black.
Because of the high rates of meritless arrests, prosecutors have declined to file charges more than 11,000 times since 2010. Arrest, itself, however threatens the lives, economic security, and well-being of those arrested in ways that can have devastating impacts on individuals, families, and communities.
In addition, the DOJ found that some officer’s routinely coerced sexual favors from individuals involved in the sex trade in exchange for money and immunity from arrest. In multiple cases, internal affairs’ files show the police department’s knowledge of these officers’ conduct, but did not properly investigate or take appropriate action. Officer’s also frequently failed to investigate reports of sexual assaults on sex workers.
Officers consistently used excessive force against juveniles and individuals with mental impairments. They also routinely exercised excessive force as retaliation against individuals who voiced criticism of the police.
While investigating the department, the DOJ found that the Baltimore police had only classified one citizen complaint in the last six years as a racial slur. This was because the 60 other complaints investigators discovered were purposely filed under lesser offenses.
According to a statement today by the Baltimore police commissioner, some of the officers who were found by the Justice Department to have committed the most egregious offenses have been fired.
The Obama administration has investigated nearly two dozen police departments for unconstitutional practices, already issuing demands for widespread change in Seattle, Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.