Proving what many already presumed about the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), the United States Justice Department announced that after producing a 163-page report, they believe that the BPD engages in conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal anti-discrimination laws.
The BPD was accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday of routinely making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests which lead to a disproportionate use of excessive force against African-Americans, youth, and people with mental disabilities.
The yearlong federal investigation came about at the request of the BPD after Freddie Gray, 25, was murdered while in police custody in 2015. However, Gray is not mentioned directly in the DOJ report. The report arrived several weeks after no officers were prosecuted for Gray’s death while he was chained and handcuffed in the back of a Baltimore police van without a seatbelt.
The absence of Gray’s murder from the report is particularly disconcerting, considering the detail with which other discriminatory actions that have been carried out by the police have been reported.
What the DOJ did include in the report is that officers harass and abuse people for standing on public property, perform strip searches in public, and tase people for “aggressive behavior.” In one disturbing incident, a man was tased by an officer for the use of a weapon which the policeman recorded was his “mouth.”
The BPD reportedly makes hundreds of thousands of unnecessary pedestrian stops and searches each year, of which only an estimated 3.7 percent actually lead to a criminal citation or arrest. Furthermore, the department has been accused of using insiders to cover up evidence of police misconduct and killings.
While the DOJ report could be considered a step in the right direction towards changing the police system, the report itself highlights the extreme racial bias that police forces across the country are guilty of.
Other DOJ reports like the one produced last year for Ferguson, Missouri, where Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old was shot and killed by police, seemingly have done little to implement any actual changes in police conduct on the ground. Rather, these federal reports seem to be blowing around a lot of hot air in the media to provide the illusion that the government is attempting to bring justice to unconstitutionally-targeted minority populations.
However, a number of Baltimore officers have recently been fired, according to the USA Today's interview with commissioner Kevin Davis. But, the BPD doesn't appear to have given specifics as to how many officers who have crossed the line lost their jobs in light of the DOJ report.
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