In light of the tragic death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General (AG) Loretta Lynch announced at a press conference on May 8th that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would immediately open an investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law. Citing “a serious erosion of public trust” the AG informed that, at the request of Baltimore city officials and community leaders, the DOJ would move from a collaborative reform process that had been underway in Baltimore over the last six months between the police department and DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), to a court enforcement model. The initial focus of DOJ’s investigation will be in three areas:

(1) Use of excessive force, including deadly force;

(2) Unlawful searches, seizures and arrests; and

(3) Engaging in discriminatory policing

The COPs office will continue their work with the Baltimore Police Department and the collaborative reform process currently underway will transition to the provision of technical assistance to the Police Department. AG Lynch informed the public that “…rather than examining whether the police department violated good policies, we will now examine whether they violated the Constitution and the community’s civil rights,” said Lynch. AG Lynch noted that “this approach has been welcomed by the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, and I want to thank them for their support and their partnership as we move forward.”

A strong recommendation was made that communities utilize the DOJ’s wealth of best practices amassed over especially the last six years in the form of collaborative reform reports and consent decrees that provide valuable resources on tremendous lessons learned to prevent a crisis before it happens.

To learn more about these resources and to read the U.S. Attorney General’s full statement see below:

AG Loretta Lynch

AG Loretta Lynch

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