The Justice Department Confirms What We Already Knew About Baltimore Policing. | Gradient

The Justice Department confirms what we already knew about Baltimore policing.

George Sheldon /
George Sheldon /

On Tuesday night, the New York Times published a scathing report from the Department of Justice that found Baltimore police routinely discriminated against blacks, often using excessive force without reason. The report, which will be issued by the DOJ on Wednesday, was conducted in the wake of Freddie Gray, an unarmed Baltimore man that died while handcuffed to the back of a van in police custody. None of the six officers involved in his arrest and transport will receive jail time.

The findings in Baltimore echo the DOJ report conducted in Ferguson last year after Michael Brown’s death provoked national attention and lengthy protests. The anecdotes, should you read the report, might be shocking. But, this is only assuming you’ve never watched “The Wire” or listened to black people — a Gallup poll found that only 37% of blacks have a “great deal” of confidence in the police. Otherwise, stories like these might be shockingly familiar:

  • The police frequently performed unconstitutional strip searches and arrests. Examples include ordering a woman to disrobe after a routine traffic stop (pg 33) and arresting an individual for “loitering” while he was talking with his brother, even though loitering falls far short of the requirements necessary for an arrest. (38)
  • One officer threatened to throw a black teen into the water and “feed [him] to the crabs” then sell those crabs, fattened off his corpse, to his family. (68)
  • An email between a Baltimore prosecutor and a police officer, in which the prosecutor calls the victim a “conniving little whore (pardon my language).” The officer’s response? “Lmao! I feel the same.” (123)
  • Shamefully callous handling of concerns from transgender individuals, including refusal to search people with officers sharing their gender identity.  (124)
  • Interviews with officers found an “us-versus-them” mindset completely “incompatible with community policing.” (pg 158)

The scandal, besides, you know, all the scandals in the 163-page report, is that black people have been bringing the same critiques well before this study. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is as strident about the “unspeakable horrors of police brutality” as it was celebratory about someday becoming “free at last.” And yet, protests in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore are derided. Riots dismissed as pure anarchy, devoid of any deeper, chronic, breach of contract from the institutions that supposedly serve said communities. Perhaps the viral power of the internet and the costly probing of the federal government will verify what black people insist is real.

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