Minority-Black Baltimore Police Department Mistrusted By Many Blacks


In the mix of Baltimore officers who face criminal charges in Freddie Gray's death, one can see a portrait in miniature of the Baltimore Police Department, an agency mistrusted by many black residents, and one suffering from its own racial divide despite a decades-long effort to integrate, the New York Times reports. As the Justice Department begins a full-fledged civil rights investigation, the Gray case “throws into sharp relief the department's shortcomings and struggles for change.” “You can't just label this something racial,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “When you have three African-American officers involved, you've got to say: 'Wait a minute, is there a system in place in which they don't want to tell on each other? Has it become a routine?' “

Over three decades, Baltimore's 3,000-member police force has undergone a slow, painful process of integration. In 1984, the year the city settled a lawsuit that forced the department to hire and promote more minorities and women, 19 percent of officers were black. By 2007, blacks were 44 percent of the force; the city's population is nearly two-thirds black. The commissioner, Anthony Batts, is black, and African-Americans hold other high-ranking posts. Despite that, tensions between black residents and the police run deep. Last week's decision by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to request a “pattern or practice” Justice Department inquiry, something she had long resisted, emphasizes that mistrust. Civil rights advocates say it is long overdue. “There are two Baltimores, and there are two Baltimore City Police Departments,” said Sgt. Louis Hopson, 63, a 35-year veteran. “This department is a very racist police department. The issues that you see manifesting themselves on the outside are the same problems we have been dealing with on the inside for years.”

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