Aug 22, 2016
The U.S. Justice Department released a detailed report describing a steady pattern of police harassment, abuse and violence by the Baltimore Police Department against black residents of the city.
The study found that, from January 2010 to May 2015, Baltimore police stopped pedestrians more than 300,000 times – more than 150 times a day, that is. Actually even more often, because cops don’t report many of these stops.
The report says that BPD brass encourage cops to make “large numbers of stops, searches and arrests for minor, highly discretionary offenses.” And cops specifically targeted black people in working-class neighborhoods. In Baltimore, where 63 percent of the population is black, 91 percent of the people arrested on discretionary offenses such as “failure to obey” or “trespassing” were black. This despite the fact that more whites who were stopped had weapons than blacks!
During these stops, cops “regularly escalate encounters with residents through illegal searches ... by frisking people without a reasonable suspicion,” the report stated; and it pointed out BPD’s pattern of using force on individuals already restrained or fleeing.
These words describe quite precisely how 25-year-old Freddie Gray was murdered by Baltimore cops in April 2015. Gray died of injuries to his spinal cord after six cops detained him for no reason other than the fact he was on a street – a stop that escalated to murder.
The outrage and protests of Baltimoreans after Gray’s death forced the city attorney to indict the six cops that were involved in Gray’s death. But the trial plan carried out by the city attorney almost guaranteed that the six got away with murder.
The federal government’s report is another indictment of the six cops who killed Freddie Gray and behind them the whole apparatus of the police department and political establishment. The report shows that this murder – along with thousands of other cases of police abuse – was the result of a long-standing BPD policy coming from the top.
That’s where the report stops: no cops will be prosecuted; no police brass, no city officials.
No, the Justice Department is not doing any of that. Basically it’s just calling on the Baltimore Police Department to correct itself – and through a “process” that would take years.
It’s little more than an attempt to divert the people in Baltimore who carried out persistent, angry protests after Freddie Gray’s death.