Baltimore police officers have routinely violated the constitutional rights of African Americans and repeatedly resorted to excessive force, according to a US
Justice Department report.
Nonetheless, officers are not adequately held accountable, shows the harshly critical report being presented on Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland.
The investigation stems from the death of African-American Freddie Gray, who died of a broken neck and severe spinal injuries on April 19, 2015, a week after he was taken into custody. Prosecutors, however, dropped all charges against the police officers involved in the death of the 25-year-old man.
Freddie Gray taken into custody on April 12, 2015
A Baltimore police officer watches as protesters gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray, at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore. (AFP photo)
The new report indicates that officers make frequent stops, mostly in poor, black neighborhoods, with insufficient justification and unlawfully arrest citizens.
Baltimore Police Department officers use unnecessary physical force against the mentally disabled and disproportionately frisk African American pedestrians and drivers, says the report, a copy of which was released in advance.
It also provides a damning indictment of the way police officers conduct the most fundamental of policing practices, including traffic stops and searches and responding to First Amendment expression.
“BPD teaches officers to use aggressive tactics,” the report reads. “BPD’s trainings fuel an ‘us vs. them’ mentality we saw some officers display toward community members, alienating the civilians they are meant to serve.”
“This pattern or practice is driven by systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, supervision, and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law,” the report says.
Baltimore City police pin down a curfew breaker in Baltimore on April 9, 1968. (AP)
Although African Americans represent just 63 percent of the city’s population, they account for about 84 percent of stops by police, the report notes.
They also make up 95 percent of the 410 people stopped by police at least 10 times from 2010 to 2015, it adds.
US police are widely accused of using excessive force against African Americans. Several police killings of unarmed black men and women over the past years have sparked protests nationwide, giving rise to an activist movement called Black Lives Matter.