Society

DoJ Probe of Baltimore PD To Continue Under New Mayor

| by Zach Cohen

A settlement between the Justice Department and the city of Baltimore is unlikely to be completed before the new mayor-elect takes office on Dec. 5.

Reuters reports that in response to a letter from Maryland's congressional delegation urging action on the matter, outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that the problems with the city's police department would take months, and perhaps years, to resolve. The settlement talks between Baltimore and the DoJ were expected to end by the beginning of November.

The DoJ took interest in the Baltimore PD after the death-in-custody of Freddie Gray in 2015, and the social tumult that followed.

The congressional delegation appears to be feeling pressured by the impending inauguration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

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"We can look back at past Republican administrations where, when it came to the…Civil Rights [Division] of [the] Justice [Department], basically they were torn apart," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings told the Baltimore Sun. "If [the agreement] is not forthcoming, we want to know why and when we can expect it."

The following is an excerpt of the DoJ's findings, which was published in August:

BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; uses enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression.  The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies that have persisted within BPD for many years and has exacerbated community distrust of the police, particularly in the African-American community.

The document also bemoans "an inadequate response to reports of sexual assault, which may result, at least in part, from underlying gender bias."

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The DoJ says that it found reasonable cause to believe that Baltimore PD engages in patterns or practices that violate the First and Fourth Amendments.

The August document suggests a number of areas for reform, including policies, training, data collection, technology to monitor officer activities, as well as the implementation of community policing strategies.

Baltimore officials said that the city had not received any proposals from the DoJ on how to implement these reforms, the Baltimore Sun reports.

David Ralph, the Interim city solicitor, who has a seat at the settlement talks, points out that similar settlements in Seattle, Ferguson, and Miami took months to resolve. "You're talking about a major document that will have lasting consequences on the city for a substantial period of time," he said.

The incoming mayor, Catherine Pugh is taking a hard line on federal interlocutors. WBAL reports that in her first news conference as Mayor-elect, Pugh said, "[e]ven [in] this (U.S. Department of Justice) report that’s been projected, we need $30 million to accomplish that. You know that money can’t be on the backs of Baltimore and its citizens. If you are going to tell us to do this, then you need to authorize some dollars to do that."

Sources: Reuters, DoJ, Baltimore Sun, WBAL / Photo Credit: GoBlue85/Wikimedia

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