On Wednesday, the Department of Justice issued a scathing report about the widespread constitutional violations that Baltimore residents have been subjected to by the Baltimore Police Department.
The report confirms what residents have long known: that the whiter, more affluent parts of town get relatively respectful, accommodating police services, while the blacker, poorer parts of town are handled with contempt and indifference to the law. These factors all contributed to the widespread civil unrest that followed the death of resident Freddie Gray last year, at the hands of police officers.
Yet the specifics revealed from the DOJ's investigation illustrate just how awful the problem has been in recent years. The department also found an appalling record of abuse, degrading comments and institutional sexism when it came to how the BPD treated women.
The following are just a few of the many jaw-dropping findings that the report uncovered.
Hundreds of black residents were stopped by police at least 10 times between 2010 and 2015, in stops that often have no constitutional grounds. Seven black men were stopped over 30 times during this time period.
"No person of any other race was stopped more than 12 times," investigators wrote.
Over 11,000 unconstitutional arrests happened over that time period due to these tactics.
It's worth noting here that Freddie Gray was subjected to what local courts acknowledged was an "unconstitutional" detention when his spinal column was mysteriously severed in the back of a police van, leading to his death. All charges against the officers involved were eventually dropped.
"Countless individuals—including Freddie Gray—were stopped multiple times in the same week without being charged with a crime," the DOJ report reads.
A BPD sergeant ordered an unconstitutional stop while on a ride-along with Department of Justice investigators.
Black residents are stopped at highly disproportionate rates, even as data shows that black residents are far more likely to not have illegal contraband when being searched.
"These results are statistically significant," reads the report. "It suggests that officers’ search decisions are biased against African Americans."
The department routinely roughs up and detains residents who were unconstitutionally stopped, while neglecting to charge them with any crimes. In some cases, this behavior has even been rewarded by superiors.
The Baltimore Police Department "frequently" performs illegal and degrading strip searches of residents on the side of the street.
This is one story.
Black residents far outpace other groups when it comes to being charged with misdemeanor offenses that are used as a pretense for unconstitutional harassment.
This is despite the fact that "misdemeanor arrests of African Americans are dismissed or declined at significantly higher rates than other arrests," the DOJ wrote. "The large racial differences in the proportion of dismissed charges for misdemeanor street offenses demonstrate that, where officers have wider discretion to make arrests, they exercise it in a discriminatory manner."
One arrest template for the charge of "trespassing" had the words "black male" automatically included in the arrest description.
The BPD uses extremely "significant resources" to enforce low level crimes.
For instance, the BPD has used a police helicopter that is meant to be deployed during shootings and other serious crimes to gather intelligence about black residents playing cards or dice in the neighborhood, leading to misdemeanor charges of "gaming."
Black residents make up 99% of arrests for gaming.
Some of the city's most vulnerable residents—those with serious mental illnesses—often receive "unreasonable force" by city officers whose mandate is to protect them.
The report notes that this behavior by the BPD might constitute "discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990."
The department's record on how it investigates sexual violence is particularly horrible.
For one thing investigators found that "only 17 percent of BPD’s rape cases in 2015 were closed by arrest– a rate less than half the national average."
And in the course of investigation, detectives ask female victims of assault mindbogglingly insensitive questions.
Officers are largely "reluctant to report misconduct."
In response to a black officer who had a reputation for speaking out against misconduct, an unnamed lieutenant placed signs around his desk, urging him to "stay in [his] lane," and "don't spread rumors!!!", among other things.
As a result of the DOJ's investigation, Baltimore has agreed in principle to have federal oversight over the BPD for the next several years, although the details have not yet been finalized. In a speech on Wednesday, Vanita Gupta, the head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, thanked the city for collaborating on the investigation and looked ahead to the reforms that are on the horizon.
"Policing that violates the Constitution or federal law severely undermines community trust," said Gupta. "Blanket assumptions and stereotypes about certain neighborhoods can lead to resentment of the police. And resentment can prevent the type of effective policing needed to keep communities and officers safe."
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.