Racial bias isn't the problem...the quality of cops and the lack of mental wellness in cops is the problem
U.S. Justice Department to Release Blistering Report of Racial Bias by Baltimore Police
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr., SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and MATT APUZZOAUG. 9, 2016
The Justice Department has found that the Baltimore Police Department for years has hounded black residents who make up most of the city’s population, systematically stopping, searching and arresting them, often with little provocation or rationale.
In a blistering report, coming more than a year after Baltimore erupted into riots over the police-involved death of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, the Justice Department is sharply critical of policies that encouraged police officers to charge black residents with minor crimes. A copy of the report was obtained by The New York Times.
The critique is the latest example of the Obama administration’s aggressive push for police reforms in cities where young African-American men have died at the hands of law enforcement.
The findings, to be released Wednesday, are the first formal step toward the Justice Department’s reaching a settlement with Baltimore — known as a “consent decree” — in which police practices would be overhauled under the oversight of a federal judge. The department started the inquiry at the invitation of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
To show how officers disproportionately stopped black pedestrians, the report cited the example of a black man in his mid-50s who was stopped 30 times in less than four years. None of the stops led to a citation or criminal charge. Black residents, the report said, accounted for 95 percent of the 410 individuals stopped at least 10 times in the five and a half years of data reviewed.
The most pronounced racial disparities were in arrests for the most discretionary offenses: For example, 91 percent of those arrested solely for “failure to obey” or “trespassing” were African-American, even though the city is 63 percent black, the report found.
In one telling anecdote from the report, a shift commander provided officers with boilerplate language on how to write up trespassing arrest reports of people found near housing projects. The template contained an automatic description of the arrestee: “A BLACK MALE.”
“The supervisor’s template thus presumes that individuals arrested for trespassing will be African-American,” the report stated, describing the sort of detentions the language was intended to facilitate as “facially unconstitutional.”
The report indicated that the frequency of arrests without probable cause was reflected in the fact that booking supervisors and prosecutors had declined to file charges, after arrests by their own officers, more than 11,000 times since 2010.
Two weeks ago, Maryland prosecutors dropped charges against the last of six officers charged in the April 2015 death of Mr. Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in custody. With that, Baltimore joined a growing list of cities where police-involved deaths sparked outrage, and even riots, yet no one was held accountable in court.
While no consent decree has been reached, the report states that the city and the Justice Department have agreed in principle to identify “categories of reforms the parties agree must be taken to remedy the violations of the Constitution and federal law described in this report.”
FINDINGS OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT
In its report, the Justice Department concluded that the Baltimore Police Department “engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct” that was unconstitutional or violated federal law, including:
• Making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests.
• Using enforcement strategies of stops, searches and arrests that unfairly target African-Americans.
• Using excessive force.
• Retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.
“I don’t think at this point, it’s about justice for Freddie Gray anymore,” said Ray Kelly, a director of the No Boundaries Coalition, a West Baltimore group that provided its own report on police abuses to the Justice Department. “Now it’s about justice for our community, for our people.”
City Councilman Brandon Scott,vice chairman of the council committee that oversees the department, said the next fight could be over how to pay for the police overhaul.
Baltimore is among nearly two dozen cities that the Obama administration has investigated after they were accused of widespread unconstitutional policing. Using its broad latitude to enforce civil rights laws, the Justice Department has demanded wholesale change in how cities conduct policing. In several cities, including Seattle; Cleveland; and Ferguson, Mo., those investigations began in the aftermath of a high-profile death that sparked protests and in some cases riots.
Police chiefs, prosecutors and experts say the investigations have forced cities to address longstanding, entrenched issues far beyond the targeted cities.
“Chiefs are constantly looking at these reports, not just to learn lessons and best practices from each other, but also what pitfalls we can avoid,” said Scott Thomson, the police chief in Camden, N.J., who is also the president of the Police Executive Research Forum.
But court-ordered reform can take years, which does little to ease the frustration of activists who say that police officers too often go unpunished for deadly encounters with unarmed people.