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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Radley Balko on the Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department

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The DoJ has released their report on the Baltimore Police Department, which Radley Balko discusses here in the Washington Post:

I’ve read a lot of Justice Department reports on local police agencies. This is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Let’s start with the broad strokes. These are all direct quotes from the report:

  • “BPD’s legacy of zero tolerance enforcement continues to drive its policing in certain Baltimore neighborhoods and leads to unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests. Many BPD supervisors instruct officers to make frequent stops and arrests—even for minor offenses and with minimal or no suspicion—without sufficient consideration of whether this enforcement strategy promotes public safety and community trust or conforms to constitutional standards.”
  • “BPD’s pedestrian stops are concentrated on a small portion of Baltimore residents. BPD made roughly 44 percent of its stops in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals—nearly all of them African American—were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010– 2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.”
  • “Our review of incident reports and interviews with officers and community members found that officers regularly approach individuals standing or walking on City sidewalks to detain and question them and check for outstanding warrants, despite lacking reasonable suspicion to do so. Only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in officers issuing a citation or making an arrest.”
  • “We likewise found many instances in which officers strip search individuals without legal justification. In some cases, officers performed degrading strip searches in public, prior to making an arrest, and without grounds to believe that the searched individuals were concealing contraband on their bodies.”
  • “Arrests without probable cause: from 2010–2015, supervisors at Baltimore’s Central Booking and local prosecutors rejected over 11,000 charges made by BPD officers because they lacked probable cause or otherwise did not merit prosecution. Our review of incident reports describing warrantless arrests likewise found many examples of officers making unjustified arrests.”
  • “While the Constitution requires individuals to receive pre-arrest notice of the specific conduct prohibited as loitering or trespassing, BPD officers approach individuals standing lawfully on sidewalks in front of public housing complexes or private businesses and arrest them unless the individuals are able to “justify” their presence to the officers’ satisfaction.”
  • “BPD uses overly aggressive tactics that unnecessarily escalate encounters, increase tensions, and lead to unnecessary force, and fails to de-escalate encounters when it would be reasonable to do so.”
  • “BPD uses excessive force against individuals with mental health disabilities or in crisis. Due to a lack of training and improper tactics, BPD officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with these vulnerable individuals.”
  • “BPD uses unreasonable force against people who present little or no threat to officers or others. Specifically, BPD uses excessive force against (1) individuals who are already restrained and under officers’ control and (2) individuals who are fleeing from officers and are not suspected of serious criminal offenses.”
  • “Our concerns about BPD’s use of excessive force are compounded by BPD’s ineffective oversight of its use of force. Of the 2,818 force incidents that BPD recorded in the nearly six-year period we reviewed, BPD investigated only ten incidents based on concerns identified through its internal review. Of these ten cases, BPD found only one use of force to be excessive.”
  • “BPD violates the First Amendment by retaliating against individuals engaged in constitutionally protected activities. Officers frequently detain and arrest members of the public for engaging in speech the officers perceive to be critical or disrespectful. And BPD officers use force against members of the public who are engaging in protected speech.”

As you might expect, all of these problems are exacerbated in black neighborhoods, where stops, use of force and unlawful arrests are far more common, even after controlling for racial demographics. There’s also just routine harassment. One officer told DOJ investigators that she likes to disperse (usually black) youths in public spaces because it “looks bad.” She recalled another time when she told a man and his four-year-old son to leave a playground because they “couldn’t just stand around” and “needed to move.”

The report notes that during the investigation, “[A] flyer celebrating loitering arrests was posted in several BPD districts. The flyer depicted three officers from one of BPD’s specialized units known as Violent Crime Impact Division, or VCID, leading a handcuffed man wearing a hoodie along a city sidewalk towards a police transport van, with the text ‘VCID: Striking fear into loiters [sic] City-wide.’” Not surprisingly, the DOJ found that the BPD vastly undercounts the number of times its officers stop city residents, despite that officers are required to report each interaction. The investigators write, “Our investigation suggests that BPD officers likely make several hundred thousand pedestrian stops per year.”

Several hundred thousand, in a city of 620,000 people. The report also found that. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2016 at 12:55 pm

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