The Justice Department has concluded its civil rights probe into the Baltimore Police Department and officials are expected to release a highly critical report of the agency on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The lengthy report details what federal investigators concluded after a so-called “pattern or practice” review that lasted more than a year and examined the Baltimore department’s use of force, searches, arrests and other policing methods. The probe found discriminatory policing practices, and local and federal officials will now have to negotiate a court-enforceable order to ensure future reforms, one of the people said.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the report ahead of its public release on Wednesday. They also declined to reveal the precise details of federal investigators’ findings.
The civil rights probe into the Baltimore Police Department was announced the month after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died when he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. That incident sparked protests and rioting in the city and drew attention to what residents said was a long frayed relationship with law enforcement. Justice Department investigators, though, were not focused on Gray’s death in particular — that is part of a separate, ongoing federal investigation — but instead assessed generally how police do their jobs in Baltimore.
In pattern or practice investigations, Justice Department officials review police records and policies, interviewing officers and local officials and talking to residents who have been affected by police work. Specific incidents are considered, but the investigation is not centered around any single occurrence.
Baltimore police officials cooperated with federal authorities throughout the process, according to one of the people familiar with the probe. When newly confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced last year that the Justice Department would look into Baltimore, she said the review was requested by the city’s mayor and she expected it would be a “collaborative reform process.”
“We’ve seen events change in Baltimore and become more intense over a short time,” Lynch said at the time. “It was clear to a number of people looking at the situation that the community’s frayed trust — to use an understatement — was even worse and has in effect been severed in relationship to the police department.”
Under Lynch, the Justice Department has been aggressive in trying to spark reforms in local police departments. The department sued the city of Ferguson, Mo. — alleging the police and court system there routinely violated the civil rights of black residents — when officials balked at a tentative agreement. That ultimately convinced local leaders to approve an agreement calling for for policy revisions and more training at the city’s police department.
The department also reached a comprehensive settlement with the city of Newark, N.J., to resolve years-old allegations that city police officers used excessive force, stopped people without just cause and even stole people’s property. Federal investigators are still probing the Chicago Police Department to see whether officers there engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Constitution or federal civil rights laws.
Baltimore has at times been the epicenter of discord between police and residents, particularly after Gray’s death. The Baltimore state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, criminally charged six city officers in connection with that case, though all were eventually acquitted or had the counts against them dropped. Critics said the spectacular collapse proved the prosecution was misguided from the start, while Mosby defended her actions and accused the police of undermining the investigation.
Mosby said in a Tuesday statement that the report “will likely confirm what many in our city already know or have experienced first hand.”
“While the vast majority of Baltimore City Police officers are good officers, we also know that there are bad officers and that the Department has routinely failed to oversee, train, or hold bad actors accountable,” Mosby said in the statement. She also noted that some police reforms have already been put in place.
Because of the Justice Department’s investigation, the city will now likely have to agree to a series of reforms, including possibly a federal monitor. Baltimore’s Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, worked in Prince George’s County, Md., when its department was being monitored by the Justice Department and was involved in implementing some reforms.
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and Baltimore Police Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Lynh Bui and Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.