Baltimore Awaits DOJ Report That Could Bring Costly Police Reforms


As killings soar in Baltimore and the trial goes on for the first of six officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis knows a report from the U.S. Justice Department will again put the nation’s eighth-largest police department under a microscope and is likely to trigger extensive and costly reforms, the Baltimore Sun reports. Davis expects the findings to focus on discretionary arrests in poor neighborhoods, “stop and frisk” encounters, the discipline process and the quality of internal investigations. Other key areas could be deficiencies with training and discipline policies and the lack of technology. Already, the department has developed two training programs to improve community relations and hired a high-ranking official to oversee planning. “I don’t fear it,” Davis said of the report. “I welcome it. It puts us in the position to hit the ground running.” Police, he said, “have to understand the different cultures. We are in a critical time where people need to stop pointing fingers.”

Since January, outside consultants and investigators from the Justice Department have reviewed policies and thousands of records to determine whether Baltimore officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of violating residents’ constitutional rights or discriminatory policing. In other cities, such investigations have exposed problems such as brutality and outdated training, leading to federal oversight that can last for years and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The federal intervention started last fall, just days after a Sun investigation found that the city had paid millions in recent years for court judgments and settlements in 102 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct. That collaborative review between city police and DOJ morphed into a full-scale civil rights investigation after the 25-year-old Gray died of a spine injury sustained in police custody.

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