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Baltimore Police Routinely Discriminate Against Black People: Justice Department

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Baltimore Police Routinely Discriminate Against Black People: Justice Department


Baltimore police regularly engage in unconstitutional behavior and display a pattern of discrimination against African Americans, according to a new report released by the Justice Department.

The report, released today, examines the Baltimore Police Department’s relationship with the citizens of Baltimore County, and concludes that Baltimore PD routinely makes unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests and displays conduct, which the Justice Department claimed “raises serious concerns.”

The Justice Department began their investigation after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died in police custody due to injuries to his spinal cord.

This is not the first investigation launched by the Justice Department following the suspicious death of a black man in police custody: a similar report was released after a probe was launched into the police department of Ferguson, Missouri for the death of Michael Brown.

The Baltimore report, however, did not focus on Gray’s death, and instead examined the pervasive patterns and practices that make up the day-to-day operations of the police department. The Justice Department report was undertaken over more than a year, and carefully assembled interviews from police officers, attorneys, elected officials, and the public.

The report found that the unconstitutional actions of the Baltimore PD affect those in poor, black neighborhoods disproportionately. Not only that, the Justice Department also found that often, officers are not held accountable for their bad conduct.

Citing specific cases, the Justice Department report describes the relationship between police and the community as “broken.” Among the specifics reported is the story of one black man in his 50s who was stopped by police, as a pedestrian, 30 times in under four years. Many of the instances cited in the report were for “discretionary offenses,” meaning the Baltimore police arrested black individuals for things like “trespassing” or “failure to obey.”

One of the more egregious instances of bad conduct from the report is that a template for writing up trespass arrest reports contained the boilerplate language “A BLACK MALE” for a description of the arrestee, indicating an assumption that those arrested will be black.

The Justice Department also found that physical force is often used without provocation or necessity not only against blacks, but also against the mentally disabled. Baltimore PD also perform unconstitutional and public strip searches, and often use excessive force against civilians, including juveniles.

In the early 2000s, the Baltimore PD maintained a “zero tolerance” policy, allowing arrests for minor charges. Despite an official denunciation of the policy in 2010 (as a result of a settlement with the NAACP), The Justice Department report found that the Baltimore PD still acted unconstitutionally as a result of the “legacy of the zero tolerance era.”

The report concludes that Baltimore police are taught to use “aggressive tactics” and often retaliate against those where officers “did not like” what was said.

The report will form the basis of negotiations between the Justice Department and Baltimore police. Ultimately, the two organizations will enter into a consent decree under which the day-to-day practices of police would be subject to sweeping changes under the oversight of a federal judge.


Photo: Police watch on as a man participates in a protest in Union Square after Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges for his involvement in the death of Freddie Gray in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., June 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly



  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 10, 2016

    Well, this is no surprise given the early settlers’ general distrust of everyone looking different than they once they set foot in America.

    Perceptions they had were simply passed on from generation to generation to the point that it has become a natural instinct to feel anxiety when seeing a black person. This is human nature to distrust the unknown and foreign human. Only a reorientation away from the false premise of “The Inequality of Human Races”, as codified and formalized by the likes of such European scholars such as Arthur Gobineau, will allow us to change our preconceived perceptions of “the other”.

    Now is the time to systematically take the time to investigate the origins of this false premise, and fundamentally alter our mental perceptions of others who appear different. Then the tensions and anxieties felt by “white” police officers gradually dissipate, and not haunt new generations of police officers.

    1. AgLander August 10, 2016

      ……prejudice against those “looking different” (your words) is not the issue………The sad fact about you and many of your fellow blacks is that you have sunk to the twisted mindset that any non black person that even LOOKS AT YOU is now considered a racist. And in your case you are also an acknowledged intra racial racist against your own race as you have offered past comments in this forum that any black man who integrates into American society as a whole is considered a “sell-out” and a “step ‘N fetch” and to be despised….again, your words. You are driven by blind hatred……I don’t feel sorry for you because you knowingly practice such bigotry. We just have to wait for societal losers like you to die off. By the way, how ya feelin?

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 10, 2016

        You have no idea what you’re talking about. You are a major contributor to why racism persists in America. Like a pernicious and deadly contagion, your poison in an insidious way affects all of America.
        I’m feeling fine, except when your ugly visage surfaces. But I quickly dismiss you, because you just don’t have good manners and are obviously woefully ignorant of what ails America and how you are a major contributor.

        This article could very well be about you, AgLander, substituting your name where “Baltimore police” appears in the report.

        How are you feeling?

        1. AgLander August 10, 2016

          Really???? the use of “sellout” and “step ‘N fetch” as slurs aimed at members of your own race? Really?? Have you no shame?

          1. TVulgaris August 11, 2016

            When you actively embrace a carefully designed and constructed system of oppression (the “sell-out” blacks, or the poor white rural voters who cling to their TEA bags or white sheets, or a host of other fully-conditioned minority groups) some epithets are merited.

            If I deride dirt-poor KKK assholes, am I racist (I am Caucasian, in fact, if that made any difference to me)? How about the miserable excuses for primates in Poland (being of Polish descent, too) who want to tweak society back into a fascist utopia (it worked so well 70 years ago)?

      2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 10, 2016

        You can’t feel sorrow because you lack a spiritual nature. Were you born without a “heart”? Was your cerebrum left in the womb, and you emerged from your mother’s womb with only a cerebellum?

  2. Oddworld August 10, 2016

    A massive problem with these communities is the disconnect between the citizens and the police. The disconnect has become cultural as have many societal problems. It seems obvious to me that both sides have managed to foster a distrust in one another which results in a dehumanizing effect on all involved. The question is which side will take the first step towards understanding the other?

    1. Sand_Cat August 10, 2016

      With respect, given the power relationship and the fact that the police are sworn to uphold and enforce the law, not their personal, political, racial, or other opinions, it has to be the police. “Both sides” didn’t start this, so blaming them both favors the more powerful side which in fact is also the one which “started it,” despite the even-handed sound of the words.

      As a person of good will, you need to understand the situation.

      1. Oddworld August 10, 2016

        I couldn’t agree more. What you don’t know is I had originally typed precisely what you said. It started sounding too wordy and preachy so I then deleted two entire paragraphs. My problem is the more I say the more I get off topic. I will leave you with this one little nugget,
        my last sentence was meant to be thought provoking.
        You responded, so it served it’s purpose.

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 10, 2016

      You’re off base my friend. If you would take the time to read the history of America, you will readily find that there was mistrust of blacks in America since slavery, which increased after the Emancipation.
      So, to say that the victim of oppression is responsible shows a cavalier and callous regard for the black community. When you understand what I and others like me have to undergo routinely on a daily basis, perhaps you’ll begin to understand the gravity of the situation.
      Religious susceptibilities facilitate one’s ability to “walk in the shoes of others”. Without that influence, the conversation devolves into an exercise of sophistry and merely an academic exercise.
      Many of us can afford to engage in that intellectual exercise, but for those of us in the black community, it has always been a tense and tenuous situation.

      I hope you can relate to what I’m saying.

      1. Oddworld August 10, 2016

        No Aaron! Read down to the reply I made to Sand_Cat. When I started writing my original draft it was much different than the one you see. I had put the onus squarely on the police. In the middle of typing I stopped to go have some dinner. When I got back I had trouble focusing and started getting off topic so I deleted over half the original draft. No disrespect but I’m quite happy with the outcome. If it gets people thinking and discussing the topic than I’ve done my job.

  3. A_Real_Einstein August 11, 2016

    Black Lives Matter.

  4. A_Real_Einstein August 11, 2016

    No more police investigating the police.

  5. A_Real_Einstein August 11, 2016

    Independent investigators must be assigned to investigate police when wrongdoing has occurred.

  6. A_Real_Einstein August 11, 2016

    The Blue code must be ended. Any police officer who is aware of wrongdoing by others and does not report it must be charged as if he committed the act himself. Problem solved.

    1. RED August 11, 2016


  7. A_Real_Einstein August 11, 2016

    It is time for a zero tolerance policy for police.

  8. RED August 11, 2016

    If this weren’t so disgusting it might be frigging laughable. So Baltimore cops are a bunch of racist abusive scumbags from top to bottom? Weird? Bad apples? Apparently the Justice Department found Ferguson the same way. Weird again? Cleveland has been under a consent decree for years for their violent abuses? Los Angles? NYPD? New Orleans? Miami? Seattle, sex scandals and cover ups. I’m about sick to death of going from one report to the next and always we get the same b.s. remedies!! Guess what? I’m guessing Baltimore is going to hire more minorities and community policing and blah blah blah! And once again nothing will be done, NOTHING!!!! And millions of people across this country will have their lives either damaged or destroyed by U.S. policies and their vicious brown shirt thug enforcers, day after day after day!!! 10 million currently under some form on the police state. Doesn’t count the ones who were previously and denied access to our economy and rights of citizenship. And for the pukes who say “you shouldn’t break the law,” first off go screw yourself you ignorant piece of garbage and second if it’s because people break the law then why do we as a country turn out more criminals than anywhere else? So either something is wrong with our system and anyone is isn’t a frigging moron, which leaves out a lot of people, can see it. So in closing shove you stupid report, quit giving us bs excuses and FIX IT, stop this violent system of oppression before it’s too late!!

  9. CrankyToo August 11, 2016

    Many of the instances cited in the report were for “discretionary offenses,” meaning the Baltimore police arrested black individuals for things like “trespassing” or “failure to obey.”

    Discretionary offenses are minor infractions which afford to police officers the “discretion” to decide for themselves whether or not to arrest. Another term for the exercise of this discretion is “selective enforcement”. It was conceived to be a law enforcement tool or methodology for strengthening police-community relations. If you’re a cop on a beat and you see a minor violation of the law, you can do more good for the community – and for your department’s standing within that community – by exercising your discretion in a positive way (i.e. by giving the violator a warning, or even a stern dressing-down).

    Conversely, by employing selective enforcement in a negative way – as our highly militarized law enforcement agencies tend to do these days – then you create the opposite effect and police-community relations suffer.

    I think we can all agree that police officers have difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs to do. But by employing “discretion” as a cudgel, in an effort to oppress and dominate the citizenry, rather than as a tool for encouraging cooperation, police departments are doing themselves a disservice.

    It ain’t exactly rocket surgery.


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