The Slatest

Baltimore Mayor Asks Department of Justice for Broad Investigation of City’s Police Force

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wants the Department of Justice to investigate her city’s police force.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has requested a broad federal inquiry into her city’s police force, a statement released Wednesday says. The request, made in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asks for “a thorough and independent investigation … to seek out any persistent patterns of misconduct, focusing on such areas as excessive force, discriminatory policing, and improper stops, searches or arrests.”

The mayor’s move comes after Lynch and other federal officials traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday. The Department of Justice is already investigating Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained while in Baltimore police custody.

If a department-wide investigation were to find a pattern of abuses, a reform agreement—a “consent decree”—would likely be negotiated. Such agreements between the federal government and local police forces have been employed in other cities with histories of police misconduct, including Los Angeles and Cleveland, and one may be forthcoming in Ferguson, Missouri.

Even as it announced the city is seeking federal intervention, the statement from Rawlings-Blake’s office enumerated a number of measures undertaken during her tenure to improve relations between law enforcement and the community, including the elimination of a controversial “Violent Crimes Impact Section” and the acquisition of body cameras for officers, which are expected to be adopted into use by the police department by the end of the year.

Still, the mayor wrote in her letter to Lynch, a wider investigation of the police force was necessary to “help repair the public’s trust in the Baltimore Police Department—even where that trust has long been broken—by bringing about transparency, accountability, and greater community understanding.”