At a press conference on Wednesday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that she has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the city’s police force for the practices of excessive use of force and civil rights violations.
Rawlings-Blake said that she sees this investigation as an “essential” part of the process to “reform serious patterns and practices of excessive force, biased policing, and other unconstitutional practices by law enforcement.”
[pull_quote_center]”Throughout my administration, we have taken a number of steps to change the culture and practices of the Baltimore Police Department,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Despite this progress, we all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community.”[/pull_quote_center]
This investigation will be in addition to the current investigation the FBI and DOJ are conducting, regarding civil rights violations in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from a severe spinal injury, while in police custody.
Gray’s unexplained death on April 19 was followed by days of peaceful protests, before riots broke out on April 27 prompting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency, call in the National Guard, and enforce a 10 p.m. curfew.
The curfew was lifted on Sunday, following Baltimore State’s attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement on Friday that Gray’s death has been ruled a homicide, and that six officers will face charges.
Rawlings-Blake also said that officers in the Baltimore City Police Department will have body cameras by the end of the year.
“I believe we need the assistance of the Department of Justice and civil rights investigation to shore up that foundation that is weak in our city,” Rawlings-Blake said. “At the end of this process, I will hold those accountable, if change is not made.”
Rawlings-Blake’s announcement comes after a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who visited the city of Baltimore on Tuesday.
The Associated Press noted that Lynch pledged to improve the city’s police department after meeting with Freddie Gray’s family.
“This is a flashpoint situation,” Lynch said. “We lost a young man’s life and it begins to represent so many things.“