Baltimore police officers fired in response to DoJ report

© Evan Habeeb
After being reprimanded by a Justice Department report accusing it of having a pattern of inappropriate and discriminatory behavior, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) has already undertaken reforms, including firing offending officers.

The 160-page report, which was made public on Wednesday, is the culmination of a yearlong investigation, and claims that BPD officers routinely conducted unlawful stops and often used excessive force in low-income black neighborhoods.

"Policing that violates the Constitution or federal law severely undermines community trust, and blanket assumptions about certain neighborhoods can lead to resentment against police," Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Civil Rights Division, said at a Wednesday conference. She added that the department's "zero-tolerance" policing had little impact on reducing crime, but degraded relations between the department and the community.

Reforms that are already underway include the firing of six officers who engaged in the most serious of such violations.

"Fighting crime and having a better, more respectful relationship with the community are not mutually exclusive endeavors. We don't have to choose one or the other. We're choosing both. It's 2016," Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.

The court-enforceable decree will mandate that the department must commit to improving its procedures or face a lawsuit. The decree likely will not be finalized for many months, Gupta said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who asked the Justice Department to conduct the probe in the wake of the rioting following the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police, said Wednesday the report is an important step on the path to reforming BPD, the Baltimore Police Department.

"The findings are challenging to hear. I never sugar-coat our problems, nor will I run away from our most pressing challenges. The transparency of the report offers crucial a crucial foundation if we are going to move forward," said the mayor, who spearheaded the unsuccessful prosecution of the officers involved in gray’s fatal detainment.

The report also found deficiencies in training, policies, and supervision that “fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of federal law."

As a result of these deficiencies and the zero-tolerance approach, the investigators are saying that over 300,000 pedestrian stops in a roughly five-year period for minor offenses and with minimal or no suspicion of lawbreaking,

Rawlings-Blake estimated that it could cost the city up to $10 million every year to implement the reforms prescribed by the report.

"We have to figure out how we can repair this relationship, because that is how we will see a much safer city,” she said.