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Department of Justice to Investigate Entire Baltimore Police Department in Response to Freddie Gray’s Death
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The Department of Justice has announced that it will launch a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department’s actions.

Summary: The Department of Justice has announced that it will launch a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department’s actions. The investigation stems from the April 12 death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody after being arrested. Since that time, riots have broken out in Baltimore and police officers have suffered injury as well. 

ABC News reports that the Justice Department will begin a federal civil rights investigation of the entire police department in Baltimore. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that recent events have “given rise to a serious erosion of public trust.”

  
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Lynch

Lynch added, “This investigation will begin immediately, and will focus on allegations that Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force, including deadly force; conduct unlawful searches, seizures and arrests; and engage in discriminatory policing. We will … examine whether they violated the Constitution and the community’s civil rights.”

Lynch noted that there has been a “fractured trust” between the police and various communities would be “an understatement.”

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Gene Ryan, the president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, said, “Our response to today’s announcement of the Civil Rights investigation into the pattern and practices of the Baltimore Police Department is the same as it has always been; we welcome the involvement of the Department of Justice and look forward to working with their representatives to heal the wounds of our city, and to improve the relationship between the community and our Department.”

Read about the charges against the officers here.



The decision to launch an investigation comes just a few days after Lynch and other top Justice Department officials visited Baltimore and the family of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died while in police custody last month after he suffered a spinal injury. After word of Gray’s death spread, violent protests broke out throughout the city.

The Justice Department launched its own probe into Gray’s death, but Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sought a civil rights probe of the entire department. Investigators from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will determine whether the police department shows a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory police behavior.

Lynch commented, “Our goal is to work with the community, public officials, and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore. Ultimately, this process is meant to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools they need – including training, policy guidance and equipment – to be more effective, to partner with civilians, and to strengthen public safety.”

The Justice Department added that it will “consider all relevant information” and will interview police officers, local officials, and prosecutors as a part of the investigation.

If the Justice Department does find that there has been discriminatory policing, the department will have to make major changes. If the police department does not implement the changes, the case may go to a federal judge, who may order changes within the department. According to the Baltimore Sun, the investigation could result in years of court monitoring for the police department. Lynch noted, “None of us has illusions that change is easy. It will take time and sustained effort.”

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The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing (“COPS”) will keep working with the Baltimore police department on a “collaborative reform process” as well as a policy review that was initiated at the end of last year. The findings of the review will be “folded into” the final report in the federal probe.

Due to the Baltimore protests, three law schools’ exam schedules were impacted.

Lynch said she experienced “profound sadness” while witnessing what was unfolding in Baltimore: “Profound sadness…for the loss of life, the loss of trust…[and] for the frustration that I know the police officers were feeling as they tried to encourage peaceful protests but then had to deal with violence.”

At least two cops were seriously  injured during the protests that were ignited after Gray died on April 12. Vanita Gupta, the Civil Rights Division head, and Ron Davis, the director of COPS, visited one of the officers in the hospital, and Lynch visited the other officer.

The tension in Baltimore was reduced slightly when the city’s top prosecutor said that charges would be brought against the six officers involved in the arrest of Gray. Some of the officers are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of failing to secure Gray properly as he was being transported in a van. Gray was reportedly face down in the vehicle. Additionally, they allegedly did not respond to Gray’s multiple pleas for medical attention. According to CNN, the police officer who was driving, Officer Caesar R. Goodson, stopped to check on Gray at one point, but did not seek medical attention for him.

Michael Davey, an attorney hired by one of the officers, said, “These officers will be vindicated because they have done nothing wrong. No officer injured Mr. Gray, caused harm to Mr. Gray, and [they] are truly saddened by his death.”

On Wednesday, Rawlings-Blake said that the police force in Baltimore has made progress in the past few years, but “continues to have a fractured” relationship with some local communities.

The investigation is similar to the probe of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, which was initiated last year after Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was killed by Officer Darren Wilson. After seven months, the Justice Department concluded that the department had developed a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory police behavior, complete with racist emails sent by officers, and an alleged 161 use-of-force complaints against the Ferguson police from 2010-2014.

According to the report, “racial bias” typically led to police practices that “disproportionately harm[ed] African American residents and “created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them.” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said that the city had already initiated some changes and said that “That type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Ferguson has hired an attorney at the rate of over $1,000 per hour to help implement the changes.

Source: ABC News

Photo credit: CNN, 1st2no.com (Lynch)



 

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