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Attorney General Loretta Lynch, citing a “serious erosion of public trust,” announced Friday that the Justice Department would investigate whether the Baltimore police had engaged in a pattern of civil rights violations.
She said the investigation would look into whether the department had used excessive force, carried out unlawful searches and seizures or engaged in discrimination.
The announcement came 11 days after rioting broke out in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury in police custody. Baltimore’s chief prosecutor later said that the arrest was illegal and charged six police officers with crimes.
“We have watched as Baltimore has struggled with issues that face cities across our country today,” Lynch told reporters.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked for the probe, known as a pattern-or-practice investigation, on Wednesday. The Justice Department rarely declines such a request from a mayor or police chief.
The Justice Department wrapped up a similar investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police in March. That investigation found that the department routinely violated the Constitution, engaged in racial bias and focused on making money over public safety.
And last year, the Justice Department concluded that police in Cleveland had engaged in a pattern of “unreasonable and in some cases unnecessary force,” including shootings, blows to the head and excessive force against the mentally ill.
In Baltimore, the riots erupted on Lynch’s first day as attorney general. She said that she had watched them on television and felt “profound sadness.”
“It was profound sadness for the loss of life, for the erosion of trust, for the sadness and despair that the community was feeling, for the frustration that I know the police officers were feeling also.”
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