WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued the following statement regarding this week’s release of the Department of Justice’s Report on the Baltimore City Police Department:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law welcomes the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report on the results of its “pattern and practice” investigation into the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) following the death of Freddie Gray who died while in police custody. The report released by the DOJ reveals widespread and systemic racial bias at almost every stage of the BPD. The report also makes clear that BPD’s policing practices both emerge from and reinforce the “two Baltimores”– one predominantly white and affluent, and one African-American and systematically disadvantaged. The time is long overdue to focus on instituting policies and practices that will restore community trust and enhance public safety for everyone in Baltimore.
The report finds the BPD engages in a pattern and practice of conducting unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; engages in over-policing of African American neighborhoods, leading to severe and unjustified racial disparities in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Safe Streets Act; uses unreasonable and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; interacts with individuals with mental health disabilities in a manner that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act; and interferes with demonstrators and protester’s First Amendment rights.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division report ties much of the crisis to a 1990’s decision to pursue “zero tolerance” enforcement, encouraging officers to make a large number of stops, searches, and arrests “with minimal training.
“The BPD, working in collaboration with experts and community leaders in Baltimore have a responsibility to act immediately to fix a broken system,” said Clarke. “Now is the time to transform policies that have resulted in loss of life and liberty for Baltimore’s African-American residents.”