Upon years of alleged police brutality involving the Baltimore Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday that an investigation will begin with hopes that positive changes will be made. The initiative will be aimed at improving the way police are trained and how they interact with the residents of the city.
According to a statement made by Ronald L. Davis, the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, the collaborative efforts among the various groups will be “done in an open and transparent fashion,” with the promise that the Baltimore Police Department will be “even better and stronger than it is today.”
On October 4th, the Baltimore Sun released an article that outlined the results of an investigation showing the effects of brutality of Baltimore residents. In the publication, pictures of residents were shown having broken bones and battered faces following arrests.
As stated in the Baltimore Sun’s article, the city has paid more than $5.7 million is settlements in 102 civil suits since 2011. Of the people involved in the civil suits, nearly all of them were cleared of criminal charges. Further, the article goes on to explain a few of the cases that went to court, including an encounter between Starr Brown and the Baltimore police. Brown’s court transcripts described the incident that left her face down on the sidewalk, covered in blood and bruises from harsh treatment by the police. Brown had witnessed a vicious attack of two girls when a group of 20 girls came running up behind them and assaulted them.
In her testimony, Brown said that she stayed in her home to avoid the altercation, acting in caution as she was pregnant, and had called the police. Before the police arrived, the attackers had fled the scene and once the police arrived, they started yelling at the victims. Brown ran outside to inform the police that the attackers fled and they should be pursued as they instigated the fight. Without cause, one of the police officers lunged at Brown, wrapping his hand around her neck. Brown screamed that she was pregnant, but the officer responded by saying, “[We] hear it all the time.” In Brown’s claim, she described that she was slammed facedown onto the sidewalk, and that the skin was gone from her face.
Another brutality case involved an eighty-seven year-old woman, Venus Green. Upon calling the police after her grandson ran home after being shot in the leg, the police officer arrived and accused Green of lying, saying that he knew the shot had actually happened inside her home. Green had been shoved in her home onto a wooden floor by the police officer after she refused to let him into the house without a warrant. Green suffered from a broken shoulder and was compensated $95,000.00. She died six weeks later of natural causes.
Plans for this investigation include a variety of measures to identify problems within the police department, including training standards. The investigation will also bring in a team of policing experts that will review current policies and standards within the community, including interviewing residents of Baltimore and community leaders.
This investigation will be different from full-scale civil rights investigations because it is not enforced by law, but rather agreed to by local officials. However, if investigators find serious issues within the police department, a full-scale civil rights investigation could ensue.
In 2011, an independent review of policing standards was developed by the Department of Justice as a way to analyze and critique methods of law enforcement.
The primary goal of this investigation is to transform the ways in which law enforcement agencies build community relationships, by increasing transparency and improving the methods of decision making policies and police training.