Last week, while the news was all a frenzy with all the disgust that is Donald Trump’s campaign, the Department of Justice released their report on the Baltimore police department. It contains disturbing details of a corrupt, racist, sexist police force. Mind you, this was just two weeks after the final charges were dropped in the case of Freddie Gray’s murder. As a reminder, Gray died in Baltimore Police custody on April 12, 2015. His injuries included a severed spine. Murder charges were filed – then dropped.
The scathing report reveals that Baltimore officers routinely practiced unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests – primarily targeting African-American citizens. Some of the details of those stops are absolutely sickening.
One incident is described on page 32 of the report:
Numerous Baltimore residents interviewed by the Justice Department recounted stories of BPD officers “jumping out” of police vehicles and strip-searching individuals on public streets. BPD has long been on notice of such allegations: in the last five years BPD has faced multiple lawsuits and more than 60 complaints alleging unlawful strip searches. In one of these incidents— memorialized in a complaint that the Department sustained—officers in BPD’s Eastern District publicly strip-searched a woman following a routine traffic stop for a missing headlight. Officers ordered the woman to exit her vehicle, remove her clothes, and stand on the sidewalk to be searched. The woman asked the male officer in charge ‘I really gotta take all my clothes off?’ The male officer replied ‘yeah’ and ordered a female officer to strip search the woman. The female officer then put on purple latex gloves, pulled up the woman’s shirt and searched around her bra. Finding no weapons or contraband around the woman’s chest, the officer then pulled down the woman’s underwear and searched her anal cavity. This search again found no evidence of wrongdoing and the officers released the woman without charges. Indeed, the woman received only a repair order for her headlight.
And this isn’t the only incident detailed in the report. Multiple people gave testimony to having Baltimore police officers stop them on the street, frisk them, come up with nothing, order them to strip and then perform anal cavity searches. This would be bad enough if they were taken into custody, but they weren’t. This was just right out on the street. These people were innocent people. No charges were filed. Nothing was found.
The report includes data showing that African-Americans in the city are targeted at a dramatically higher rate than any other race. It details incidents of gender bias in sexual assault investigations. And, when one citizen filed a formal complaint about improper actions, including sexual assault, by the police, the report says:
In another egregious example, an investigator made minimal delayed attempts to look into a woman’s complaint that two BPD officers fondled her when conducting a search and called her a ‘junkie, whore bitch.’ The investigator assigned to the case made no attempt to contact the woman until four months after she made these serious allegations.
Findings also revealed that it wasn’t just when women were accusing cops of sexual assault, there was little care for sexual assault victims in general. The BPD Sex Offense Unit even went as far as threatening to give rape victims lie detectors, interrogating them in emergency rooms and not submitting rape kits for testing. The DOJ detailed this mentality in the report:
One victim advocate told us about a detective in the BPD Sex Offense Unit making comments at a party, in the company of BPD officers and victim advocates, that, ‘in homicide, there are real victims; all our cases are bullshit.’ When another person suggested the detective soften the statement, the detective added, ‘Ok, 90 percent.’ We also reviewed e-mail correspondence between a BPD officer and a prosecutor in which they openly expressed their contempt for and disbelief of a woman who had reported a sexual assault: the prosecutor wrote that ‘this case is crazy. . . I am not excited about charging it. This victim seems like a conniving little whore. (pardon my language).’; the BPD officer replied, ‘Lmao! I feel the same.’
On the day of the 163-page report’s release, officials held a press conference and said the details would be difficult to read. They were right, it is extremely difficult to read. They also used quite a bit of language basically saying that change is difficult and it would be challenging. . .
Umm, is it really that challenging as a police officer to NOT strip people in the middle of a sidewalk and do anal searches? Is it that difficult to not intimidate or threaten rape victims? Is the biggest challenge in policing NOT killing the people you are protecting and serving? Is it REALLY that tough to be mindful of the U.S. Constitution? Is this REALLY where we are now?
Look, I realize being a police officer is a tough, tough job. But, I’m having a really difficult time understanding 1. how these tactics are so easily used against fellow human beings and 2. how the “good cops” can just sit idly by and allow those who are sadistic bastards tarnish their badges?
According to officials, the officers involved in the incidents within the DOJ report have been fired. I’m not sure that’s much of a consolation, considering those that killed Freddie Gray are still gainfully employed and for anyone other than a cop – the findings of this report would land them in jail for assault.
The really sad thing is, this is just one city. This is just one report.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images