Blistering US Justice Dept. Report: Baltimore Cops Discriminate, Overuse Force

Posted: August 10, 2016 in Uncategorized
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The US Department of Justice has found that the Baltimore Police Department routinely discriminates against blacks, frequently uses excessive force, and is not adequately held accountable for their consistent misconduct.

The damning report, released on Wednesday, is based on a yearlong investigation into the force, following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man killed when his spine was severed after being deposited into the back of a police van unrestrained. His killing led to charges against six officers, including one for second-degree depraved-heart murder. All six officers were acquitted, setting off additional protests and rioting.

The Justice Department findings back up what the community and activists had said all along. To help curb the problem, the DOJ is seeking a court-enforceable consent decree to force the department to institute improvements, but activists and organizers remain skeptical.

“BPD teaches officers to use aggressive tactics,” the report reads. “BPD’s trainings fuel an ‘us vs. them’ mentality we saw some officers display toward community members, alienating the civilians they are meant to serve.”

Michael Wood Jr., a former Baltimore police officer and Black Lives Matter supporter who famously took to Twitter to describe misconduct he personally witnessed within the department, spoke to Sputnik regarding the DOJ report.

“There is a sense of vindication for activists and victims, but we have to be careful about what the DOJ report means, and the impact, going forward. DOJ reforms only have a 50% success rate and that is by their own measurements of success,” Wood told Sputnik.

“There is no American city that I can point to as the model of success and empirically these problems exist, to some extent, in every police department in this country. It should be safe to say that from the public perspective, none of these reforms can be deemed successful.”

“Instead of performing smart management and redirecting resources, the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department will demand tens of millions of taxpayer funds to implement reform measures of which have no history of success,” he continued.

Wood’s Twitterstorm last June, about misconduct he personally witnessed, made global headlines as he recounted seeing an officer slap an innocent woman for bumping into him, officers defecating in beds and on the clothing of suspects during raids, and the consistent targeting of black men aged 16 to 24.

“This additional tax money will come at the expense of the very victims that the DOJ report seeks to highlight,” Wood explained. “At the very same time that the city is in the middle of handing the largest TIF ever to developers, again at the expense of these same victims. The DOJ is no solution. The only answer is the one I will continue to push.”

Members of the community hold hands in front of police officers in riot gear outside a recently looted and burned CVS store in Baltimore, Maryland, United States April 28, 2015

“No longer can we continue the failed methods of policing. American police serve and protect the aspirations of politicians, funded and directed through the pockets of the elite.”

The federal investigation of the Baltimore PD did not focus only on Gray’s case, but examined the department as a whole. The investigators spent the past year interviewing the community, public officials, police officers, public defenders, and others. They also conducted ride-alongs with officers, and reviewed complaints against the force.

Ultimately, the DOJ determined that officers make a large number of their stops in poor black neighborhoods under dubious pretenses and often illegally arrest residents for being disrespectful to officers. They also determined that black citizens are disproportionately searched after being stopped. Additionally, the department found that officers often use excessive force, including against juveniles and the mentally disabled.

“While the vast majority of Baltimore City Police officers are good officers, we also know that there are bad officers and that the department has routinely failed to oversee, train, or hold bad actors accountable,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the city’s top prosecutor, said in a statement.

In one eye-opening example, the probe found that black residents were the target of roughly 84% of all stops, despite the fact that they make up 63% of the city’s population.

“In the words of Cesare Beccaria in 1738, ‘Liberty is at an end whenever the law permits that in certain cases a man may cease to be a person and become a thing.’ The black community has screamed in the dark about this reality,” Wood told Sputnik.

Beyond mere frisking, the DOJ found that officers perform unconstitutional public strip searches, even when a person is not under arrest.

“My time policing in Baltimore validated their generational victimization, and the DOJ report further confirms that a loitering black man has become a thing to the institution of policing, as have sexual assault victims, and the myriad of others explain why, in the other Baltimore, ‘we are all Freddie Gray,’” Wood stated. “Liberty is at an end in cities all across this country. Politicians must relinquish power over the police to the people, in the civilian-led model I talk of constantly, so finally, who the police serve and protect, will be the people.”

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