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Baltimore PD routinely violate rights of Blacks

GEORGE E. CURRY | 8/22/2016, 11:34 a.m.
After reading the 164-page Justice Department report on the Baltimore Police Department, it is surprising that street rebellions didn’t occur ...
George Curry

(George Curry Media) – After reading the 164-page Justice Department report on the Baltimore Police Department, it is surprising that street rebellions didn’t occur sooner in Baltimore.

The report is a stinging assessment of the police department’s policies and practices that concluded: “… [T]here is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.”

It said the BPD “engages in a pattern or practice of:

  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.

  4. Retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”

Furthermore, the report concluded, “BPD’s targeted policing of certain Baltimore neighborhoods with minimal oversight or accountability disproportionately harms African American residents. Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force. These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”

As we have seen from similar investigations conducted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, this is probably a portrait of most big city police departments. In this case, the sheer breadth of the documented racial discrimination is mind-boggling.

Take the simple matter of being able to walk the streets without being suspected of committing a crime. African Americans were stopped three times as often as White residents and were 95 percent of the 410 people stopped at least 10 times.

“Racial disparities in BPD’s arrests are most pronounced for highly discretionary offenses: African Americans accounted for 91 percent of the 1,800 people charged solely with ‘failure to obey’ or ‘trespassing’; 89 percent of the 1,350 charges for making a false statement to an officer; and 84 percent of the 6,500 people arrested for ‘disorderly conduct,’” the report stated.

Prosecutors rejected more than 11,000 charges because they lacked probable cause.

“BPD also stops African American drivers at disproportionate rates. African Americans accounted for 82 percent of all BPD vehicle stops, compared to only 60 percent of the driving age population in the City and 27 percent of the driving age population in the greater metropolitan area.”

Many of the stops were not justified.

“We also found large racial disparities in BPD’s arrests for drug possession. While survey data shows that African Americans use drugs at rates similar to or slightly exceeding other population groups, BPD arrested African Americans for drug possession at five times the rate of others.”

It explained, “BPD searched African Americans more frequently during pedestrian and vehicle stops, even though searches of African Americans were less likely to discover contraband. Indeed, BPD officers found contraband twice as often when searching White individuals compared to African Americans during vehicle stops and 50 percent more often during pedestrian stops.”

Baltimore police “engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force,” the report found. “Officers frequently resort to physical force when a subject does not immediately respond to verbal commands, even where the subject poses no imminent threat to the officer or others.”