Today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) commends the Department of Justice (DOJ) for launching a federal investigation of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) to determine whether BPD has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of violations of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws. The decision comes after Baltimore’s young people, clergy, elected officials, and civil rights leaders, including LDF, asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to initiate such an investigation earlier this week.
DOJ’s investigation will focus on three areas: (1) excessive use of force, including deadly force; (2) unlawful search, seizures and arrests; and (3) discriminatory policies. In a statement released earlier this week LDF, in conjunction with the Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform, called for the federal investigation to supplant DOJ’s collaborative review undertaken with the Baltimore Police Department last year. We noted that a voluntary review of police practices, without the force of law, was insufficient “in light of the historic and entrenched problems existing in the culture of the Baltimore Police Department.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, stated: “We are pleased by today’s decision and the speed with which it was made. As the Attorney General noted in her comments announcing the investigation, the Baltimore community’s trust in law enforcement has been severed. This is an important step in restoring that trust and ensuring that BPD is fully complying with its obligations under the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.”
LDF also calls upon DOJ to investigate every aspect of policing in Baltimore, including policing within the school system and, specifically, the use of force and arrest practices of school police underlying the March 2015 indictment of a Baltimore school police officer for assaulting three middle school students.
LDF remains concerned about the amount of resources available to DOJ to investigate the mounting incidences of police misconduct around the country.
“The $12 million currently allocated to the Civil Rights Division for pattern or practice investigations is insufficient,” says Ifill. “We urge Congress to support this important public function with adequate funding.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a separate organization. When referring to us in the media, please use “LDF” or “NAACP Legal Defense Fund.”