Just after Freddie Gray case dropped, DOJ says Baltimore cops ‘racist,’ take steps for fed takeover

Three of the defendant-police officers in the Freddie Gray murder case were found not guilty, and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dropped the charges against the remaining three — but the Department of Justice wasn’t at all satisfied.

It issued a scathing report Wednesday, in which it claimed that law enforcement officers in Charm City systematically engaged in unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests targeting African-Americans.

Clip via CNN

The investigation was launched last year at the request of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake following rioting that resulted from Gray’s death while in police custody.

The report claimed that problems in training, policies and supervision led to a failure “to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of federal law,” CNN reported.

As a result of the probe, the city and the Justice Department have agreed to negotiate a court-ordered consent decree that will prescribe steps for reform, in addition to steps Baltimore already has taken, city and federal officials told reporters in Baltimore on Wednesday, according to CNN. In June, the department announced an overhaul of its use of force policy.

“The findings are challenging to hear. I never sugar-coat our problems, nor will I run away from our most pressing challenges. The transparency of the report offers crucial a crucial foundation if we are going to move forward,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The report, which came from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said the problem arose as a consequence of the department’s “zero tolerance” enforcement program it launched in 1999, which resulted in more than 300,000 pedestrian stops in five years.

“These violations have deeply eroded the mutual trust between BPD and the community it serves, trust that is essential to effective policing, as well as officer and public safety,” Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division told reporters.

The report claimed that the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in unconstitutional stops and arrests, discrimination against African-Americans, and has used unconstitutionally excessive force, according to CNN.

It also found that officers have retaliated against activities protected by the First Amendment, engaged in gender bias in sexual assault investigations all stemming from a need for better training and accountability.

The city of Baltimore and the Department of Justice have agreed to enter into a court-ordered consent decree that will lay out steps to reform the department. It’s a step that could have the DOJ’s tentacles reaching far into local affairs for an unreported amount of time.

Rawlings-Blake claimed the reforms could cost the city as much as $10 million a year, according to NBC News.

“We have to figure out how we can repair this relationship, because that is how we will see a much safer city,” she said.

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