(BALTIMORE) — Baltimore police violated the constitutional rights of residents on a routine basis, conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, according to a Justice Department report obtained by ABC News.
The police conduct primarily impacted the city’s African-American residents living in poor neighborhoods, who were stopped, arrested and victimized by excessive force more often than their white neighbors, the Justice Department concluded in the report, expected to be released Wednesday morning.
The DOJ investigation of the Baltimore Police Department was triggered by the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who allegedly died from injuries sustained while being transported in police custody. The investigation found that “African Americans accounted for 86 percent of all criminal offenses charged by BPD officers despite making up only 63 percent of Baltimore residents.”
The investigation also found “overly aggressive tactics that unnecessarily escalate encounters,” and widespread and systematic problems in Baltimore policing, including: “making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests”; “using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjust searches and arrests of African Americans” and “retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally protected expression.”
According to the report, the unlawful practices were “driven by systemic deficiencies in [the police department’s] policies, training, supervision and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of federal law.”
While recognizing the challenges and risks faced by individual officers every day on the street, the report ripped into BPD management, saying it failed to give officers the equipment and training needed to police safely and effectively.
“The agency fails to provide officers with sufficient policy guidelines and training, fails to collect and analyze data regarding officers activities; and fails to hold officers accountable for misconduct,” the report said.
For example, the report, which looked at 2010-2015, found that “Of the 2,818 force incidents that BPD recorded in the nearly six year period we reviewed, BPD investigated only ten incidents….BPD only found only one use of force to be excessive.”
Justice Department investigators said that they received cooperation from the Baltimore Police Department, and there was a “widespread agreement that BPD needs reform.”
Investigators interviewed a wide spectrum of Baltimore residents and community leaders, and noted that that there is a consensus that there are “two Baltimore’s” — one largely affluent and white, and one primarily black and poor.
The white residents reported that police were responsive to their needs, while the in the black community, the police service was poor, and officers were viewed with deep mistrust, according to the document.
Department of Justice and Baltimore officials are expected to announce a new, court-enforceable agreement Wednesday that will outline reforms and actions the BPD must take to comply with the law, and begin to regain the trust of the community.
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