Baltimore Mayor Asks Justice Department to Investigate Police

by | May 6, 2015

By Sarah Parvini

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency in Baltimore on Wednesday, shortly after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the city's Police Department.

Hogan praised the National Guard and the police officers who "quickly brought calm and order back to the city."

"We touched every corner of the city we could reach. We saw devastation and destruction, but we also saw incredible acts of kindness," Hogan said during a televised news conference. "We saw neighbors helping neighbors. We saw a community that cares about each other."

Rawlings-Blake, who also announced that Baltimore officers would have body cameras by the end of the year, told reporters that she aimed to ensure the department is not engaging in "a pattern of stops, searches or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment."

"Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community," she said. "We have to get it right. Failure is not an option."

The Justice Department said it is weighing the mayor's request for a "pattern or practice" investigation.

"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," Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Rawlings-Blake's announcement comes one day after a visit by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who pledged to improve the police department. Lynch met with members of Freddie Gray's family, community, civic leaders and police.

Gray died April 19, a week after he was arrested by Baltimore officers, who had placed him in a police van to take him to precinct headquarters. But Gray, handcuffed with feet shackled, arrived unconscious and with a severed spine.

His death set off days of rioting and tense standoffs between protesters and police. Hundreds of demonstrators set police cars and businesses ablaze, throwing rocks and looting stores.

Of that rioting, Hogan said he "will never forget the lawlessness and violence" but will remember the "individual acts of charity and forgiveness" he saw.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby last week announced criminal charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest and transport. The six, who face charges ranging from assault to second-degree murder, are free on bail.

City officials last year requested the Justice Department's help in examining police practices and procedures, a long-simmering issue in Baltimore that became more urgent after a Baltimore Sun series found the city had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 in court judgments and settlements for lawsuits alleging brutality and other misconduct.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times