US justice deptartment to examine Baltimore’s police

Inquiry to investigate if pattern of unconstitutional policing occurred in city

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch (C) said “the situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice - not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place”. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/Reuters.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch (C) said “the situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice - not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place”. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/Reuters.

 

The US justice department will investigate whether the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing, law enforcement officials have said, a day after the mayor asked for an inquiry.

The request by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake came days after the state’s attorney for Baltimore filed criminal charges against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, who died April 19th after being injured while in police custody, setting off large demonstrations, arson and looting.

At a policing conference on Thursday, the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony W. Batts, said he did not object to an outside investigation, adding that he was committed to reforming the Police Department. He said he recognised that Baltimore residents did not trust the city to make changes voluntarily.

“I am willing to do anything it takes to win that trust back,” he said. “If it’s DOJ, whatever it takes.”

Protesters said the unrest set off by Mr Gray’s death was the culmination of years of police mistreatment. The turmoil has dominated Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s first weeks in office.

“The situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice - not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place,” Ms Lynch said on Capitol Hill.

There was no immediate reaction from Ms Rawlings-Blake. The mayor convened business, religious and philanthropic leaders at the intersection of West North and Pennsylvania avenues, near a CVS store that was looted and burned in last week’s riots, to announce a public-private partnership to improve areas devastated by the unrest.

She called it a “once-in-a-generation effort to tackle inequality.”

Ms Lynch, who took office a week after Mr Gray died, was in Baltimore this week to meet with community, religious and political leaders about whether to conduct a “pattern or practice” review, which would look into whether police officers used excessive force, carried out street stops based on race or arrested people without probable cause.

Rep Elijah E. Cummings, the Democrat who represents Baltimore, said there was uniform agreement. “She asked them, ‘How many of you all think we should have a patterns and practices review investigation?’” Mr Cummings said in an interview. “If I remember correctly, all of them raised their hands; there were about 40 of them. And I raised mine too.”

New York Times