Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the Baltimore Police Department for abusive practices, following protests over police brutality after Freddie Gray died of a spinal cord injury while under police custody.
"Throughout my administration, we have taken a number of steps to change the culture and practices of the Baltimore Police Department," Rawlings-Blake said, according to the Hill's David McCabe. "Despite this progress, we all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community." She added, "Such an investigation is essential if we are going to build on the foundation of reforms that we have instituted over the last four years."
Rawlings-Blake also said the Baltimore Police Department would adopt body cameras before the year's end.
The mayor's comments come after Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts acknowledged in an interview with CNN's Evan Perez that police "are part of the problem." Last Friday, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced 28 criminal charges against the six police officers involved in Gray's arrest.
The mayor's office pointed to numerous changes to policing Rawlings-Blake has pushed during her time in office, including bringing in the Justice Department's COPS Program to help carry out reforms following a September 2014 report by the Baltimore Sun's Mark Puente that found the city had paid out $5.7 million to more than 100 people over allegations of police brutality between 2011 and 2014.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch hasn't yet decided whether the Justice Department will accept the mayor's latest request. "The Attorney General has received Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s request for a Civil Rights Division 'pattern or practice' investigation into the Baltimore Police Department," Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson said in a statement. "The Attorney General is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore yesterday."
It's unusual for city leadership to directly appeal to the Justice Department to conduct an investigation, which can lead to sweeping legal decrees that mandate specific policing reforms. In Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of Michael Brown, the Justice Department unilaterally opted to carry out an investigation, which found a pattern of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department that was at least in part explained by unlawful bias and stereotypes against African Americans. Ferguson and the Justice Department will negotiate how, exactly, the city will reform its police department.