Justice Department review assails Baltimore Police Department

With Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at her side, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta unveiled conclusions drawn from a year-long Justice Department (DOJ) probe into the patterns and practices of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) on Wednesday.

The DOJ inquiry was triggered after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who died seven days following his arrest by Baltimore police officers.

In its final report, which excoriated Baltimore’s law enforcement community, the Justice Department deduced it “found reasonable cause to believe that the BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as well as federal anti-discrimination laws.”

“These violations have deeply eroded the relationship between the police and community it serves,” said Gupta.

Speaking from Washington on Wednesday morning, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters:

“Our investigation found that Baltimore is a city where the bonds of trust have been broken, and that the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful and unconstitutional conduct, ranging from the use of excessive force to unjustified stops, seizures and arrests.  The results of our investigation raise serious concerns, and in the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to ensure that all Baltimoreans enjoy the safety, security and dignity they expect and deserve.

Among the report’s interpretations:  BPD enforced a “zero-tolerance” policy which led to unconstitutional stop and frisks, but with no probable cause; Black citizens were more frequently targeted for stop and frisks; the BPD engaged in a pattern of excessive force; officers “routinely” infringed on First Amendment rights through the arrest of those who shouted profanity at police or interfered with those who recorded police activity; and the department “seriously and systematically under-investigates” sexual assault claims.

Ahead of the report’s release, the BPD had initiated a series of reforms; the use-of-force policy has been revised and new training programs have been put into place.

Although months away, in accordance with the judgments from the DOJ, a court-enforceable consent decree will force Baltimore to accomplish the task of acting on the DOJ recommendations to improving police practices, procedure and training in order to avert a federal lawsuit.

In a separate review, the DOJ is determining whether federal civil rights violations occur in Baltimore.

Analysis

One man’s untimely death caused a year-long exploration of the Baltimore Police Department.

Once again, driven by predatory instincts, the Obama Justice Department descends onto a city like a pack of feral cats in the wake of a police-related death and retreats after delivering the ultimatum Baltimore must submit to federal demands.

For all the fury generated by the death of Freddie Gray, the investigation in Baltimore, similar to inquiries Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland, was premature:  All six Baltimore police officers were cleared in the death of Freddie Gray; the DOJ account produced after Ferguson utterly dismantled the “hands up, don’t shoot” myth and exonerated officer Darren Wilson in the death of Mike Brown; and officers involved in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, which inspired a probe in Cleveland, were similarly acquitted after a judge ruled their use of force justified.

Such events are ignored by the Obama Justice Department, however.

Moreover, one troubling aspect of the DOJ’s investigations is the reflexive gesture to frame race around each incident when no evidence exists of race playing a role in the event.

Naturally, there is neither a mention of the millions in property damage nor is there even a slight rebuke delivered to protesters who exceeded their right to assemble or the inept leadership of Baltimore for its amateurish response to riots.

In fact, it is Baltimore Mayor Stephaine Rawlings-Blake who deserves particular scorn for her disgraceful failure to lead at the height of the Baltimore upheaval.  Uttering the words “space to destroy” when addressing police handling of protesters, Rawlings-Blake used language which may have been interpreted by rioters as a license to run amok and turn what could have been a legitimate, peaceful protest into a mob action.

That no word of disapproval were mentioned against the bumbling government in Baltimore or the delinquents who reduced sections of Baltimore to rubble and looted indiscriminately in the DOJ’s final report is unsurprising:  Mr. Obama and his Justice Department find a righteousness in the deeds of the those who riot, plunder and destroy.

Part of a deeply disturbing pattern of DOJ overreach, by refusing to wait for sober appraisals by local officials when such unfortunate incidents occur, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department has morphed into the very malevolent force it accuses inner-city police departments of with his burdensome restrictions imposed on law enforcement.

This is yet another shameful aspect of Obama’s legacy.

 

[Baltimore Sun] [Washington Post] [Cleveland.com] [Photo courtesy Wall Street Journal]