Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has requested a federal inquiry into the pattern and practices of the Baltimore Police Department on Wednesday, the day after her meeting in Baltimore with the new Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
If the mayor’s request is granted, the US Department of Justice - specifically its Civil Rights Division - would investigate the Baltimore Police Department to find out whether a pattern or practice of biased law enforcement was exercised.
The review would examine policing in Baltimore to decide if bias exists in the Police Department’s arrest data, traffic stops and other operations, combing for evidence of excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests or other unlawful actions by law enforcement officials.
On Tuesday, ten City Council members led by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young asked Lynch for a full-scale investigation, repeating a request that he made several times over the past few months.
Some community activists have requested such an inquiry for years, which can lead to consent decrees (agreements between two parties with no admission of wrongdoing) and years of court monitoring.
A similar probe was conducted in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. The months-long inquiry resulted in a March 2015 report that found evidence of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department, as documented in a chapter entitled “Ferguson law enforcement practices violate the law and undermine community trust, especially among African Americans.”
The Civil Rights Division, as described on its website, works “to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
The division is responsible for enforcing federal statutes “prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.”
Loretta Lynch, in her Apr. 29 statement regarding Baltimore, said she was committed to advancing “a respectful conversation within the Baltimore community and across the nation about the way our law enforcement officers interact with the residents they are charged to serve and protect.”
Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson stated on May 6 “The Attorney General has received Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s request for a Civil Rights Division ‘pattern or practice’ investigation into the Baltimore Police Department” and that Lynch was “actively considering that option.”