The U.S. Justice Department has released a scathing report on its investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, finding a routine use of "enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans."
The Justice Department also found that the BPD has regularly conducted unlawful stops, searches and arrests, used excessive force, and retaliated against "people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression."
"This pattern or practice is driven by systemic deficiencies in BPD's policies, training, supervision and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law," the report states.
The Justice Department launched its investigation after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old was arrested by police and later died from injuries incurred while in police custody, including a partially severed spinal cord and crushed voice box.
Six police officers were charged for their varying roles in the events that led to Gray's death. Of those officers, three were acquitted during bench trials and the remaining three had the charges against them dismissed.
Now that the Justice Department's investigation findings have been released, the department and the BPD say they will start negotiations on police reforms that could be included in a consent decree.
Among the groups reacting to the Justice Department's report is the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
"The report released by Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed what many African American residents of Baltimore have known and lived too long," LDF's Sherrilyn Ifill said in a statement. "The findings in the report are devastating. Taken together, the findings lay bare the harsh reality of discriminatory policing in a major American city -- from discriminatory stops, arrests and searches to the use of excessive force. It's instructive that the DOJ identifies the legacy of 'zero tolerance policing' as the key source of the systematic unconstitutional conduct of the Baltimore Police Department."