The Justice Department’s investigation into the practices and policies of the Baltimore Police Department details a number of shocking incidents involving Baltimore officers. Here are some excerpts, with the headings also written by the Justice Department:
“BPD Conducts Unconstitutional Strip Searches”
“Numerous Baltimore residents interviewed by the Justice Department recounted stories of BPD officers ‘jumping out’ of police vehicles and strip-searching individuals on public streets. BPD has long been on notice of such allegations: in the last five years BPD has faced multiple lawsuits and more than 60 complaints alleging unlawful strip searches. In one of these incidents — memorialized in a complaint that the Department sustained — officers in BPD’s Eastern District publicly strip-searched a woman following a routine traffic stop for a missing headlight. Officers ordered the woman to exit her vehicle, remove her clothes, and stand on the sidewalk to be searched. The woman asked the male officer in charge, “I really gotta take all my clothes off?” The male officer replied “yeah” and ordered a female officer to strip search the woman. The female officer then put on purple latex gloves, pulled up the woman’s shirt and searched around her bra. Finding no weapons or contraband around the woman’s chest, the officer then pulled down the woman’s underwear and searched her anal cavity. This search again found no evidence of wrongdoing and the officers released the woman without charges. Indeed, the woman received only a repair order for her headlight. “
“BPD Ignored Prosecutors’ Warnings Against Problem Officers”
“Even where prosecutors have provided BPD with specific information on problematic officers who routinely make improper arrests, searches, or seizures, the Department has failed to meaningfully investigate the information or take appropriate action. For several years, the State’s Attorney’s Office maintained a ‘Do Not Call’ list of officers that prosecutors should not subpoena to testify because prosecutors determined that the officers did not testify credibly about their enforcement actions. Although the State’s Attorney’s Office regularly shared this list with BPD, the Department rarely used the information to identify officers who may need support or discipline. As a result, problematic officers remain on the street, detaining, searching, and arresting people even though the State’s Attorney’s Office has determined that it cannot prosecute a crime based on the officers’ testimony. The State’s Attorney’s Office no longer maintains a written ‘Do Not Call’ list, but prosecutors informally maintain a registry of problematic BPD officers who cannot be used to support criminal prosecutions. In recent years, the State’s Attorney’s Office has contacted BPD leadership on several occasions to identify officers that prosecutors determined can no longer testify credibly due to misconduct. In most of these cases, BPD leadership took no action against the identified problem officers.”
“BPD’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Strategy Focused on African American Neighborhoods”
“In some cases, BPD supervisors have instructed their subordinates to specifically target African Americans for enforcement. A sergeant told us that in 2011 her lieutenant — a commander in charge of setting enforcement priorities for an entire police district during the shift — ordered the sergeant to instruct officers under her command to ‘lock up all the black hoodies’ in her district. When the sergeant objected and refused to follow this order, she received an “unsatisfactory” performance evaluation and was transferred to a different unit. The sergeant filed a successful complaint about her performance evaluation with BPD’s Equal Opportunity and Diversity Section, but BPD never took action against the lieutenant for giving the order to target “black hoodies” for enforcement.
“Similarly, as described above, in 2012 a BPD lieutenant provided officers under his command with a template for trespassing arrests that suggested officers would arrest exclusively African-American men for that offense. As in the first example, this directive is especially concerning because it came from a shift commander. These statements targeting African Americans for enforcement reinforce the statistical disparities in enforcement outcomes that we measured. The enforcement activities ordered by the BPD commanders — arresting African Americans for trespassing and finding any possible basis to arrest ‘black hoodies’ — are consistent with the racial disparities we found in BPD’s discretionary stops, searches, and misdemeanor arrests.”
“Racial Disparities in Arrests”
The racial disparities in BPD’s stops and searches are further reflected in BPD’s arrest practices. From November 2010 – July 2015, BPD charged African Americans with 280,850 criminal offenses, constituting over 86 percent of all charges filed for which the race of the offender is known. Expressed a different way, African Americans in Baltimore were charged with one offense for every 1.4 residents, while individuals of other races were charged with only one offense per 5.1 residents. This discriminatory pattern is particularly apparent in two categories of BPD’s enforcement: (1) warrantless arrests for discretionary misdemeanor offenses such as disorderly conduct and failing to obey an officer’s order; and (2) arrests for drug possession. In both cases, officers arrest African Americans at rates far higher than relevant benchmarks.
“BPD’s warrantless arrests for discretionary misdemeanor offenses exhibit substantial racial disparities. .. Analysis of this data reveals that African Americans account for the overwhelming majority of BPD’s discretionary misdemeanor arrests, and that reviewing officials are more likely to dismiss charges against African Americans—indicating that officers apply a lower standard when making them. As an initial matter, BPD officers arrest African Americans for several common misdemeanor offenses at high rates. Although they make up only 63 percent of Baltimore’s population, African Americans accounted for: 87 percent of the 3,400 charges for resisting arrest; 89 percent of 1,350 charges for making a false statement to an officer; 84 percent of the 4,000 charges for failing to obey an order; 86 percent of the more than 1,000 charges for hindering or obstruction; 83 percent of the roughly 6,500 arrests for disorderly conduct; and 88 percent of the nearly 3,500 arrests for trespassing on posted property.”
And again, these are just a small part of the findings of systemic racism, unlawful arrests, and a culture of viewing brown and especially black people as The Enemy, You're crazy if you think this isn't happening in nearly every PD in America, too.
This isn't Jim Crow era stuff in America's past. This is now.