Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s visit to Baltimore yesterday looking for ways to calm roiling national tensions over police violence showed how difficult that will be, Politico reports. “It's a balancing act,” said former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official Robert Driscoll. “The president's involvement I think increases the pressure to be viewed as 'doing something.' Opening a pattern-or-practice investigation has the problem of creating tension with the police force at a time I'm sure they feel under siege, [but] between the law enforcement community and the civil rights community, usually somebody is not going to be happy.” Baltimore erupted into riots and looting last week after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering severe injuries while in police custody.
Competing political pressures, combined with legal strictures, are limiting Lynch’s options for a robust federal response. Community leaders in Baltimore are demanding the launching of a Civil Rights Division “pattern-or-practice” probe into the Baltimore Police Department. Yesterday, Lynch held her cards close to her vest, sounding more like a counselor than a prosecutor. Meeting with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the talk was about “partnership,” not investigation or confrontation. Today, the Justice Department announced that Lynch “has received Mayor Rawlings-Blake's request for a Civil Rights Division ‘pattern or practice’ investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. The Attorney General is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore yesterday.” John Brittain, a University the District of Columbia law professor, said, “We will see if she kind of reopens the Justice Department's previous monitoring of the Baltimore Police Department and expands it more widely.”