Baltimore police regularly engaged in racial bias, excessive force: Justice Department

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BALTIMORE — A harshly critical Justice Department report says Baltimore police officers routinely discriminate against blacks, use excessive force and are not adequately disciplined for misconduct.

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis (L) listens as Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta (C), head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, speaks during Wednesday's press conference in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis (L) listens as Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta (C), head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, speaks during Wednesday’s press conference in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

The report issued Wednesday represents a damning indictment of how the city’s police officers carry out the most fundamental of policing practices, including traffic stops and searches, and responding to First Amendment expression.

Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis told reporters Wednesday that some offices had been fired who committed some of the most egregious violations found in the yearlong federal report.

The investigation was launched after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken while he was handcuffed and shackled but left unrestrained in the back of a police van. No officers involved were convicted.

DOJ civil rights division head Vanita Gupta said the Baltimore Police Department’s wrongful practices have “deeply eroded” the relationship between police and the community.

The Justice Department is seeking a formal consent decree to force the police agency to commit to improving its procedures in order to avoid a lawsuit. That decree, which would lay out reforms that could be enforced by the courts, likely will not be finalized for many months.

A mural dedicated to Freddie Gray is shown near the location where he was arrested in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

A mural dedicated to Freddie Gray is shown near the location where he was arrested in 2015 in Baltimore. (Getty Images)

Sherrilyn Ifill, head of the NCAAP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the DOJ’s findings confirm “what many African-American residents of Baltimore have known and lived too long.”

While the BPD will work to eliminate biased police tactics, Davis warned during his Wednesday news conference that making meaningful changes will take time, commitment and trust.

Ifill urged “residents, community groups, and leading city institutions to marshal their resources and prepare for the long haul to find a way forward.”