Baltimore P.D., Justice Dept. agree to make major changes after blistering report

BALTIMORE, Aug. 10 (UPI) — The Baltimore Police Department and U.S. Justice Department have agreed to implement dramatic reforms in the law enforcement agency in the wake of Wednesday’s scathing federal report that concluded city police officers routinely violated the civil rights of black residents.

The 164-page report identifies systemic problems and gives examples of police treatment of the city’s African American residents, who make up the majority of its population.

In critical language, it notes that African Americans are more likely to be stopped and searched for illegal guns and drugs, that police practice discriminatory arrest procedures, and that officers are encouraged to have “unnecessary, adversarial interactions” with community members.

The report examined Baltimore police data for the past five and-a-half years and is part of the Obama administration’s concentration on police reform in cities where young African-American males have died while interacting with law enforcement — in Baltimore’s case, last year’s death of Freddie Gray.

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The report includes anecdotal examples of black drivers being stopped by police in numbers disproportionate to city demographics, including the example of an one driver in his mid-50s who was stopped by police 30 times in less than four years, with none of the stops leading to a citation or criminal charge.

Despite making up just 63 percent of Baltimore’s population, blacks accounted for 95 percent of those stopped by police at least 10 times during the time period under review.

Kevin Davis, Baltimore’s police commissioner, said that he regards the report as a means of improving the police force. Wednesday, local and federal officials said they have agreed on a number of court-ordered solutions aimed at solving the problems identified in the report.

“We have begun this journey to reform long-standing issues in many real, tangible ways. DOJ’s findings will serve to solidify our road map,” Davis said.

Final details of the agreement will be completed by November, officials said.

“We are committed to making sure these reforms happen,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday. “While we understand that Baltimore doesn’t have a blank check, in order for those reforms to happen there has to be commitment to dollars.”

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The intended reforms are expected to be costly to implement, which means Baltimore will likely apply for a number of federal grants to help pay for them — along with several other cities that have reached similar agreements with the federal government.

“The city commits to continue improving its policies, training, data collection and analysis to permit the assessment of officer activity and ensure that officers’ actions conform to legal and constitutional requirements,” the agreement states.

Baltimore citizens will have a chance to voice their opinions about the potential reforms before they are submitted for court approval, officials said.

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