DOJ: Baltimore Cops Violate Constitutional Rights


The Department of Justice released its report on the Baltimore Police Department and found the BPD engages in systematic behavior that violates citizens' First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as anti-discrimination laws.

The scathing report showed that BPD constantly makes unnecessary stops and searches, and often obtains warrants without justification.

Black people are disproportionately affected by this unconstitutional and systematic behavior, which also includes widespread use of excessive force, and has been going on for several years, resulting in general mistrust of the police by the city's residents.

“We found that BPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of serious violations of the U.S. Constitution and federal law that has disproportionately harmed Baltimore’s African-American community and eroded the public’s trust in the police,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “The agency also fails to provide officers with the guidance, oversight and resources they need to police safely, constitutionally and effectively. In communities across America, even in communities where trust has been broken, we’ve seen transformative reform rebuild relationships and advance public safety.”

Justice Department officials said they plan to work with BPD to improve the constitutionality of its practices, using guidance from police and members of the community.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he would work with the Justice Department and will have no tolerance for officers who "choose to engage in racist, sexist, discriminatory or biased-based policing."

"Change is painful. Growth is painful. But nothing is as painful as being stuck in a place that we do not belong," Davis said, reports CNN.

But to many in the community, the findings weren't surprising. The report was welcomed as a way to identify and address problems.

“The report released by Department of Justice has confirmed what many African-American residents of Baltimore have known and lived too long,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, reported the Baltimore Sun. “It’s instructive that the DOJ identifies the legacy of 'zero-tolerance policing' as the key source of the systematic unconstitutional conduct of the Baltimore Police Department." 

Sources: Department of Justice, CNN, Baltimore Sun / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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