Four hundred and eighty-five days after the death of Freddie Gray the Justice Department has released a report confirming the claims made by Baltimore residents for years, according to the Associated Press—Officers of the Baltimore Police Department mistreat African American individuals at an alarming and disproportionate rate.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died while in police custody as a result of a spinal cord injury sustained during his arrest. His death served as the catalyst for protests and riots in Baltimore, and prompted the 15-month Justice Department investigation.
All six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray were later acquitted or had their charges dropped. However, the 164-page report highlighted major problems within the Baltimore Police Department.
The report found that African Americans account for 63 percent of Baltimore’s population, but 84 percent of all police stops. Of the over 400 individuals stopped by police 10 or more times from 2010 to 2015, 95 percent were black. The report went on to say that Baltimore police officers are trained to use aggressive tactics that create an “us vs. them mentality."
Danny Marrow, a retired food service worker, told the AP that he had been stopped and hassled by Baltimore police repeatedly over the years.
“Bullies in the workplace,” Marrow said of the Balitimore Police Department. “They don’t want you to get angry or challenge their authority, so they’ll use force.”
Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer who is now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was critical of the report, telling the AP that it failed to investigate the realities of being a police officer in Baltimore.
“They have huge festering problems,” O’Donnell said. “And the Justice Department has nothing to say about that at all.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was appointed following the death of Freddie Gray in April of 2015, have agreed to work with the Justice Department to set police reforms over the next few months as a result of the report and to avoid a government lawsuit.
“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,” Davis said.