Frustration spilled onto a gym floor last night as hundreds of Baltimore residents gathered to air grievances over years of harassment, beatings and other mistreatment they say they have endured from city police, the Baltimore Sun reports. They turned out for a meeting convened by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate, at the city’s request, complaints about Baltimore’s Police Department. When a former San Jose, Calif., police chief hired to lead the meeting told the crowd he wanted to know whether they “trust” the city’s police, a woman shouted “No.” From that point on, dozens of residents, most of them black, inundated federal officials with assertions that city police have been brutalizing residents with impunity.
“When are you all going to help us?” cried out Wayne Amon Ra, 35, who said he was assaulted by police after he called officers for help when he detained a man breaking into cars. The town hall meeting was part of a “collaborative review” between DOJ and city police officials into the agency’s history of misconduct claims, brutality allegations and excessive force complaints, including those that have resulted in injury or death. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts requested federal help after a Baltimore Sun investigation last year found that city taxpayers had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 in judgments and settlements in 102 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct. Officers had battered dozens of residents in questionable arrests, the investigation revealed, resulting in broken bones, head trauma, organ failure and even death.