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Justice Department to investigate Baltimore police for excessive use of force

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch heads the Department of Justice.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch heads the Department of Justice.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  1. The US Department of Justice will investigate the Baltimore Police Department for excessive use of force and other abusive practices to evaluate whether police systemically violated the Constitution and locals' civil rights.
  2. The announcement came two days after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requested the civil rights probe, following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in a police van despite repeated pleas for medical help.
  3. The Baltimore Police Department has a troubling history of brutality. A September 2014 report by the Baltimore Sun's Mark Puente found that the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 to more than 100 people — most of whom were black — who claimed that officers had beat them up. The city asked the Justice Department's COPS Program to help institute reforms shortly after that investigation.
  4. "Despite the progress being made, it was clear that recent events … had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust," Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who heads the Justice Department, said at a press conference.
  5. The death of Gray catalyzed tense protests in Baltimore, as residents marched and sometimes rioted over police's mistreatment of the local black community. Over the past year, the deaths of other black men to police have led to similar protests across the country.
  6. Other civil rights probes by the Justice Department have found abuses and led to reforms in other police departments. One investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department, which began after the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, found a pattern of racial bias by police.

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