WASHINGTON, D.C. – The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) applauds today’s announcement by U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a pattern or practice investigation of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) on the heels of the arrest of six Baltimore police officers for the alleged illegal arrest and ultimate death of Freddie Gray Jr.
“This federal investigation of the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether the city’s officers have shown a pattern of excessive force against residents is indeed critical and the embattled citizens of Baltimore deserve a reformed, responsible, non-abusive and racially just police department,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “Like Ferguson and the slaying of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray’s death and the years of historic and entrenched problems existing in the culture of the Baltimore Police Department places a spotlight on the nationwide epidemic of police brutality and misconduct and the extreme reforms needed.”
The Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform (led by the Lawyers’ Committee) along with additional national civil and human rights organizations, faith leaders and those committed to the protection of the rights of African Americans and all Americans, issued a letter to the DOJ earlier this week urgently requesting a probe. As stated in the letter, “the comprehensive nature of such an investigation would reach well beyond that of the ongoing collaborative process and will potentially reveal – like in Ferguson – additional problems that otherwise would not have been uncovered.”
“An urgent and comprehensive federal, state and local response is necessary in many similarly situated urban police departments and impacted communities across this country,” said Lawyers” Committee Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House. “We commend Attorney General Lynch for taking swift action to provide the appropriate federal response.”
“As hundreds of African American women, men and youth continue to be killed or brutalized by police officers, the Lawyers’ Committee and the Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform continue to reiterate our call for transparency, accountability, leadership, and training,” added Ms. Arnwine. This call includes:
- Passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (Maryland’s Senator Ben Cardin and Michigan’s Representative John Conyers reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act on April 22, 2015)
- A full accounting of police-involved arrests, shootings and killings of African Americans and all persons nationwide;
- Mandatory racial bias and sensitivity training for all law enforcement personnel;
- The required use of police officer Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) to record every police-civilian encounter;
- Better accountability of the use and potential distribution and use of federal military weapons by local law enforcement;
- Greater oversight and accountability of police officers through the formation of both national and community-based policing commissions;
- Grand jury reform; and
- Cessation of broken windows policing and its consequences of Stop and Frisk, Jump Outs and Racial Profiling.