Aug. 11, 2016 – The following is a statement from David Rocah, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland:
The Department of Justice’s findings on the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) document in devastating detail what Baltimoreans have decried for years: Baltimore’s Black residents are racially-profiled, harassed, stopped, searched, arrested, and assaulted by police, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Baltimore residents subjected to these abuses have included children and teens, the elderly and individuals in crisis.
Worse still, community members are both structurally and intentionally thwarted from holding officers, including school police who often operate collaboratively with BPD officers, accountable for violating their rights.
Critically, the DOJ report draws attention to the total lack of supervision and accountability that has allowed abuses to flourish unchecked within the BPD. As an organization that also advocates for fair student discipline and works with coalitions tracking school-based arrests, we are equally concerned by the findings that Baltimore School Police operate as an auxiliary law enforcement agency of the BPD.
The DOJ findings are a long overdue memorialization of the experience of generations of Black communities in the City. But, without the commitment of law enforcement, the City Council, and the Mayor’s office to a fundamental overhaul of the department and current accountability structures, the findings will not translate to meaningful change in the everyday lives of Baltimore’s residents.
Moreover, while the external accountability that comes with DOJ oversight is promising, law enforcement must ultimately be accountable to the communities it serves. So, as the DOJ and City leaders negotiate a consent decree, we urge them to support Baltimore’s residents playing a central role in both crafting and implementing reforms.