On August 10th, the Department of Justice released a report on the investigation of the Baltimore Police Department which confirmed that the BPD is locked in a pattern of power abuse and constitutional violations in its interactions with citizens and its administration of justice. The report shows that the department especially targets Baltimore’s black citizens and neighborhoods for unlawful stops, arrests, and use of force.
The report outlines egregious examples of BPD’s constitutional violations and bad practices, which include “1) making unconstitutional stops searches and arrests; 2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”
The methods of citizen control and intimidation include “clearing corners,” or unlawful stops and arrests of citizens. These stops often made without legally required reasonable suspicion and arrests are made without a warrant or probable cause. In many cases, BPD failed to inform citizens that they were doing anything illegal before arresting them.
In addition, examples of racial bias flood the report. BPD regularly violated the Constitutional rights of its African American citizens, as 44% of BPD’s pedestrian stops occurred in two small African American neighborhoods that contained only 11% of Baltimore’s population. Black people made up 82% of of all vehicle stops, although African Americans make up 60% of the driving population in Baltimore. African Americans were the most likely to be stopped in any neighborhood, regardless of racial make-up.
BPD officers were twice as likely to find contraband on white citizens than black citizens, although black people were stopped and arrested more often.
One black man in his 50s was stopped by BPD 30 times in less than four years. None of these stops ever lead to an arrest.
Another disheartening example includes blatant displays of BPD’s disdain toward African Americans citizens, with one man attempting to report an officer’s use of the n-word during an arrest of a fourteen year old boy, only to be greeted by that same officer and told to “take [his] black ass down to Kirk Avenue.”
Further, police handling of sexual assault cases ranged from ambivalence to complete disregard towards cis and trans women’s concerns. The report characterizes the department as displaying “unlawful gender bias,” as they fail to investigate and report sexual assault in Baltimore. For example, when questioning a sexual assault survivor, one officer reportedly asked her “Why are you messing that guy’s life up?”
These findings follow the end of the trials for the officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray, wherein every officer charged was absolved of committing any crime. While the courts were unable to find adequate evidence to charge the officers, the DOJ report confirms that there are in fact “two Baltimores,” one with white residents feeling a sense of respect and responsiveness from BPD, and another, with African American residents experiencing a routine violation of rights, a lack of mutual respect, and poor service from BPD.
Check out the full report here.
Photo Credits: Flickr