Home / General / Policing In Baltimore is a Racist Shitshow

Policing In Baltimore is a Racist Shitshow



Not that this comes as a shock, but the DOJ’s report is quite remarkable nonetheless:

The Baltimore Police Department is a complete and utter disaster.

That’s the only possible takeaway from reading the US Department of Justice’s 163-page report into Baltimore police, leaked on Tuesday. The report found major flaws in even the most basic modern policing practices, from arrests to use of force to basic interactions with the community. To make it worse, these findings are compounded by what appears to be purposeful, disproportionate targeting of the city’s black residents.

“Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force,” the report concluded. “These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”


The report essentially validates many of the protesters’ claims. Baltimore police stop people for essentially no reason, particularly black residents. They are far too quick to use force. Charges are often dropped due to a lack of merit for any prosecution. Cops regularly violate people’s rights, including those protected by the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment. And virtually everyone is aware of these types of problems — officials within and outside the police department, members of the community, and even police union representatives acknowledge the desperate need for reform.

Definitely read the whole etc.

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  • jeer9

    About the only silver lining one can find in this cloud is that O’Malley’s phoney baloney presidential campaign went nowhere.

    Let’s hope he doesn’t get appointed head of the Department of Homeland Security.

    • cpinva

      in fairness to O’Malley, the BPD didn’t go from the finest, best organized and managed PD in the country, to a piece of crap unworthy of the title “Police Force” overnight. no, it has taken decades of diligent work, by both the city administrators (from the Mayor on down), and the members of the BPD itself, to produce this piece of crap, masquerading as a “Police Force”. I didn’t think it was possible, but the BPD is apparently even worse than the PG County Police Force, and that’s a high bar to hurdle.

  • georgekaplan

    What’s the way out of this mess? That’s what worries me. Bandaid measures like mandatory body cameras or sensitivity training aren’t going to cure rot that goes this deep. More drastic surgery is needed–but I don’t see the political will to acknowledge this, anywhere.

    • keta

      Exactly this.

      A Baltimore Sun editorial notes:

      Every single incident, every damning statistic, every embarrassing failure of accountability the DOJ documented occurred under Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s administration, up to and including the 14 months when the feds were conducting their investigation. The practices the DOJ describes, including potentially hundreds of thousands of unconstitutional stops and searches, excessive and unnecessary use of force, racially discriminatory orders, violations of First Amendment rights and sexist dismissals of complaints of sexual assault are not the work of a few “bad apples.” They are the product of intentional policies and wanton failures of accountability, and they continue to this day.

      As a smart guy once quipped, you cannot eradicate the stench with the same stinkers that enabled them.

      • AMK

        ……under Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s administration…

        It’s almost as though many affluent, well-connected black people care as little about “their” urban poor as affluent, well-connected white people care about poor whites in rural methlandia.

        • eh

          Good one, Beavis.

        • shah8

          That is…

          deeply, fucking, unfair…

          Any serious attention paid to what happens to local reformers when they try to fix police department (Buzzfeed just did an article about the Albuquerque DA’s sinking) would reveal how personally and career-wise dangerous it is to do that.

          For the most part it takes hammerblows from the Feds to do much of anything. Mosby did, I suspect, seriously try to try and convict the five policemen who killed Freddie Gray. Do you seriously believe that any of those so-called affluent, well-connected black people have much of the sufficient power to make much change? Obama as a state senator was rather accomplished in getting greater oversight over the police in terms of interrogations or racially biased police stops–but overall, given the secret torture sites, the convenient equipment malfunctions and the like, it hasn’t amounted to that much. And hey, that was a successful black person. What happens to other “affluent, well-connected black people” who take an interest in racial affairs? How about that black judge in Kentucky who was excessively noisy about prosecutors bringing him all white juries for black defendents?

          The most fucked up thing about AMK’s statement is just how much “affluent, well-connected black people” are fucking terrified that their status isn’t enough outweigh a potentially lethal burden of being black.

          And oh yeah, that report elides just how police impunity is maintained… More and more, I think that in real world terms, police unions are simply a terrible idea.

          • rea

            Police forces without unions don’t seem to handle these issues any better.

            Unionization is a fundamental human right.. You might as well propose to solve police brutality by jailing accused officers without trial.

            • ThrottleJockey

              You might as well propose to solve police brutality by jailing accused officers without trial.

              Okay I’m sold, By any means necessary baby.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                Call me a bland reformer! How about jailed and tried? It would be a start.

            • shah8

              Repeating this doesn’t convince me of anything other than that there are strong incentives for men with guns to establish immunity. In other words, police unions make the problems worse and harder to fix when things go really wrong. In places without unions, theoretically, kingpins are acting in a more naked capacity, allowing for remediation simply by dealing with local bosses like mayors or with specific bad actors at or near the top of the hierarchy.

              • (((Hogan)))

                “Theoretically” is doing a lot of work here. Getting rid of police unions doesn’t get rid of local power structures. What makes you think they want the kind of police force you want?

          • FridayNext

            And let’s not ignore history. This has been brewing for decades if not centuries. Even if we only go back 50-75 years we can see racist policies in the New Deal, GI Bill, Red lining, blockbusting, and a host of other policies at the federal, state, and local level that has made the ghettoes in Baltimore official government policy. There is only so much a small cadre of even the most diligent and efficient politicians can do in such a short time to truly effect lasting change. It’s going to take decades to dismantle because it took decades to build.

            And bear in mind, and I say this from personal experience as I am from Maryland and have many family and friends in the state, much of the rest of the state is perfectly okay with this situation. They are, even as we speak, making excuses, rationalizing, and even cheering this report. A lot of the people in the suburbs stopped caring about, and openly hating, Baltimore as soon as they bought their house in the suburbs and helped enact policies and laws to keep blacks from following them.

            There is only so much the politicians of an American city can do if the rest of the state and country doesn’t give a shit and are actively supporting the racist police force.

            • glasnost

              AMK may unfair, but no doubt there’s a grain of truth to it. It’s wrong to put all the blame here on only low-level cops, or on the state of American culture”, or whatever. The people most directly able to fix this, and thus the people to be held most responsible, are Baltimore’s last five mayors and city councils, along with police leadership.

              A united mayor and city council has a lot of power to at least fight the police over this, force out the guys at the top and put in people who get it, and then begin the process of heavy weeding out of the bastards and their replacement.

              The problem was that 10 years ago, the whole task looked risky and likely to fail with no upside for them. The tide of media coverage and political support for this creates a new opportunity to ‘win’ for mayors and politicians who take this on. But still demands drastic, and expensive action. Starting with tearing down and recreating from scratch the civilian oversight board and the upper layer of the police force. It’s gradual mass purge time – gradually to avoid organizational collapse, but for real.

              If they don’t do it – if they don’t make real hwadway on this, they’re not serious and they need to be voted out. It’s that simple.

              The blame and the choke point is on the civilian leadership of the city of Baltimore.

              • shah8


                Black mayors and councilmembers are typically answerable to a white power structure. Generally, any black lawmaker who is too interested in supporting their black constituents will get primaried with a more compliant black person.

                When that property developer wants to play rough, he or she is going to want cops who aren’t too interested in the rights of their targets. If a black mayor or councilmember is too interested in stopping such development…well, bad things happen.

          • DrDick

            I generally agree with everything you say here, but police unions are not the problem. Police administrations and racist white voters are the problem. Breaking the unions does nothing to solve the problems and could even make them worse.

            • shah8

              TINA is not an argument.

              The problem is the racketeering of violence and the degree to which unions enable and protect bad actors and their sponsors in the local power structure.

              Look, the very nature of union organizing around workplace situations (like safety) conflicts with the idea that the public at large are human beings. I guess I am fine with a police union that couldn’t negotiate immunity for its members and what other fraternity bullshit they come up with, but doing that would impair a lot of more legitimate gripes.

              The issue is not about what a union does. It’s about how dangerous and hard to fix captured unions are.

              • DrDick

                However, the unions can only do that because the administration is comfortable with it. Do not ignore pressure from above to “get tough on crime” (in certain areas, with certain people). We have the police the people in power want to have.

        • ThrottleJockey

          There’s a bunch of different things going on. First it’s a Monumental challenge to change the culture of an entire organization and that’s what your having to do with the BPD. you can’t just fire every cop who works for you.

          Second even though Baltimore’s a majority black City I doubt that it’s police force is limited to Baltimore City residents. That means that your employing people who don’t even like the city there policing.

          Finally as any big-city marrow tell you pissing off the police unions unions takes courage, Deep Pockets , and lots of support because those police Union guys vote and unfortunately lots of blacks don’t.

          • brewmn

            Speaking as someone who has grown up around and still socializes with Chicago cops, if I could point to one thing that should change, it would be to stop hiring based on nepotism. Four generations of racist assholes with no marketable skills other than their familial or neighborhood connections is enough.

            • Pat

              Changes in police training and hiring need to come in conjunction with taking officers off the street who have had frequent, recent use-of-force incidents.

              The primary predictor of excessive force use by cops is recent use-of-force. They get into a mindset where they’re going to hurt people, and they do.

              Cops who are pulled off for frequent use-of-force get retired. That way you can weed the bastards out.

              • cpinva

                “The primary predictor of excessive force use by cops is recent use-of-force. They get into a mindset where they’re going to hurt people, and they do.”

                they do so because they know the odds are stacked in their favor that they will suffer no repercussions for said bad behavior, even if they violate police “use of force” policy, on camera. they probably won’t be charged. if they are charged, the odds are good a jury will find them not guilty, despite the video evidence.

              • brewmn

                Good point. I think our joint comments show that there are specific, concrete steps that can be taken to change police culture.

          • Domino

            I remember reading somewhere about a theory on cultural change that essentially said “cultural change will only happen suddenly, all-at-once”. I want to say it was named after the researcher who coined the term, but a couple of google searches aren’t coming up with anything ATM.

            It appears Dallas PD adapted reforms, but they seem to be the outlier. If people wanted a better police force then there needs to be sufficient political backing, and then root out as many enablers as you can and adopt a strict zero-tolerance policy.

            I mean, read this hissy-fit thrown by the police union in response to the chief of police, a 30+ year veteran, say that some residents have an unreasonable fear, and that police need to work to ease that.

            Police officers appear to have the second thinnest skin in the country, just behind Trump.

          • Jim in Baltimore

            I saw something, I don’t remember where, that noted the figures. The majority of the police live in Harford, Howard, and Baltimore Counties (the county is not the city). The story I remember also noted other departments (fire, public works, etc). The only group among those in the story (Sun? City Paper?) that have a majority living in the city are school crossing guards.

    • LeeEsq

      The Georgia (the country solution). Fire them all and begin again.

    • McAllen

      At this point I genuinely believe the police as an institution are going to have to cease to exist as we know them.

    • Brett

      We’ll see what the consent decree brings, but honestly Baltimore PD is a good candidate for simply dissolving the police department and having county law enforcement step in temporarily until a new police force can be organized with entirely new leadership and policies.

      • cpinva

        the MD State Police are perfectly capable of stepping in, until a completely new city force is up and running.

  • The department also appears to hate women, blaming them for men sexually assaulting or raping them.

    Seriously, how does a cop ask a sexual assault victim this question: “Why are you messing that guy’s life up?”

    • The link makes the prosecutor’s office look real good, too.

    • JL

      Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. And the “cops who are supposed to be investigating sexual assaults think most of their cases are bullshit” situation is sadly common. See also this and this.

  • Cheerful

    I think at some point we should start wondering why any particular police force is a good one, instead of being surprised that there is a bad one. The cultural issues of racism, authoritarianism, corruption, tribal loyalty and poor training in the use of force have been essential parts of American police forces for a long time. The work should be to find the good apples now, and figure out how they got that way and what can be transferred in terms of institutional change.

    • rea

      Most US police forces simply ignore the basic principles of policing formulated in the 19th Century when police forces were invented:

      Sir Robert Peel ‘s
      Principles of Law Enforcement
      1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.
      2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.
      3. The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.
      4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.
      5. The police seek and preserve public favor, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all
      members of society without regard to their race or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
      6. The police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve police objectives; and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
      7. The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are only the members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the
      community welfare.
      8. The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.
      9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

      • Rob in CT

        That’s a fine list.

        • N__B

          Bobby wasn’t a bad guy. Like a lot of other nineteenth-century thinkers, he had no way to predict how fucked up his followers would become.

          • so-in-so

            Or maybe didn’t see what would happen when it melded into a (formerly) slave-owning society.

            • ajay

              1829 was four years before the abolition of slavery.

              • so-in-so

                I don’t think Robert’s Rules were in widespread use stateside at that time.

      • Lester Freamon’s Tweedy Impertinence

        I’ve gotten in protracted arguments with wingers and libertarians about the desirability of shifting our police toward the Peelian Principles. A disappointing number of conservatives and/or white people in general are juuuust fine with the racist, unaccountable warrior-cop status quo. One guy in particular said British bobbies were “pussies” because they didn’t carry guns. The irony of our cops feeling afraid for their lives despite routinely wearing body armor and carrying a shitload of weaponry did not penetrate.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Never seen that before and I really quite like it.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        number 7 would bend a lot of people’s minds. it seems to me we’ve developed this kind of binary, “cops are saints” or “cops are scum” attitude and I’m not any more sure how we get around that than how the police overcome their sense of being under siege

        shorter me: not only do we need different cops we need a different citizenry

        • guthrie

          NUmber 7 basically says “You, the ordinary member of society, should also be doing some of this when you can”, which would involve actually admitting there is community and society and obligations, which lots of people don’t want to do. There is only them, and their desires.

          • sibusisodan

            Yeah, that struck me too.

            I think duty is an important thing. If we’re going to bring back massive levels of inequality, could we at least craft a noblesse oblige to go along with it?

      • CP

        You know the most interesting quote in the lot?

        1. The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.

        Last I looked, both professional standards and public trust were much higher in the military than they are in the police. Also, the National Guard is still what gets called in when the cops can’t handle something or it gets out of control. I can’t remember what city it was (might have been Baltimore) that they were called into sometime recently to restore order after the rioting was too much for the cops to handle, but I remember noticing at the time that they got better reviews even from the populations they were policing than the cops did. Which I found interesting, given that the National Guard is inherently a much more heavy-handed instrument than the police.

        • rea

          Well, but of course back in 1829 Britian, the experience of using the military for law enforcement had been rather negative.

          • ajay

            Well, but of course back in 1829 Britain, the experience of using the military for law enforcement had been rather negative.

            Exactly. (And indeed everywhere else.) Basically, before you had professional police forces, you had troops in barracks in the major towns and cities, who could be called out in time of serious disorder. The phrase “reading someone the riot act” is used in British English now to mean “admonishing them severely”, but the Riot Act was a real law, and if you read it out to a riotous crowd they had an hour to disperse or face death.

            And you had ad-hoc watchmen patrolling particular areas, originally local residents on a rota, later professionals hired by the residents. But they weren’t there to uphold the law, they were there to preserve property and order.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          You’ll might find that the National Guard armory in some cities was placed in a location where they could be sent out to take care of unruly laborers with their strikes and whatnot.

          • N__B

            unruly laborers with their strikes and whatnot.

            Love of Shakespeare is a kind of whatnot.

            • ajay

              Fantastic. Like the two drunks in The Simpsons fighting over who was the best 19th century British prime minister.
              “Pitt the Younger!”
              “Lord Palmerston!”

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              Security Theater at its finest.

          • so-in-so

            My understanding is that virtually every National Guard Armory is sited specifically for that purpose, and the classic ones were in fact all built around the same time, not coincidentally about the time unions were forming.

        • ajay

          And don’t overlook the other bit:
          and severity of legal punishment.

          Early 19th century criminal law was extremely harsh. There were literally hundreds of offences that carried the death penalty.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything in that list about shooting every dog that comes near them when they’re serving a warrant.

    • DrDick

      Exactly. Another big problem you missed is the political pressure on the police to make rich and powerful people feel safe and comfortable. That entails keeping all the poor and minorities “in their place.”

  • Ghostship

    Americans need to accept that institutional racism is endemic throughout the United States, it’s not just the Baltimore Police, it’s likely to be most police forces, it’s not just New York schools that are effectively segregated, it’s probably most school systems. Even the legal system is racist. It’s not good enough to think that moaning about Trump and some of his supporters being racists is going to resolve this problem, people need to start asking HRC who will most likely be the next President of the United States what she is going to do about it and what her specific measurable targets are. No more mealy-mouthed platitudes.

    • eh

      Yes, it’s a racist country. Film at 11.

      Have you yourself tried to ask HRC your questions yet?

      • Have you yourself tried to ask HRC your questions yet?

        What, and get killed by her thugs???

        • cpinva

          “What, and get killed by her thugs???”

          nah, she prefers to do the light work hands on, she only uses the thugs for major jobs, like killing everyone in Arkansas.

    • Chetsky

      There’s not a dime’s worth of difference, after all. So let’s ask HRC, b/c yaknow, no need to ask Donald.

      ETA: and we shouldn’t try to improve on the situation incrementally, nononono, we should -demand- perfection, and right away! And of course, since Donald wouldn’t give us perfection, we can just skip right past even questioning him.

    • LeeEsq

      This is all true but having a mass revelation in America seems very unlikely for a wide variety of reasons.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Good luck, I don’t see anything changing over night or really much in four or eight years. The problem of institutional racism in the US has been discussed at least since Black Power by Carmichael and Hamilton came out in 1967 almost fifty years ago. Despite LBJ, Clinton, and Obama institutional racism still exists. It has an intractable quality that makes it extraorinarily difficult to eradicate. Even radical left wing regimes like Cuba have failed to eliminate it.

      • cpinva

        Sherman was right, the entire Confederate Army should have been crushed, to a man, and every slave owner in the south hung after the war. not doing so allowed Jim Crow to be spawned.

    • ThrottleJockey

      That’s why I’m not satisfied with HRC’s Shuck and Jive routine with blacklivesmatter.

      I want to see specific policies suggested to end this stuff. She won’t get my vote until she proposes actual policies to keep black people alive. My God the LAPD just killed a man for Sleeping While Black ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/08/10/a-terribly-devastating-event-black-man-killed-by-swat-team-was-innocent-officials-say/ ) .

      Stop giving us Kumbaya Hillary and start giving us policy.

      • brewmn

        Oh, like she had your vote anyway.

        • ThrottleJockey

          She didn’t lose my vote until I saw how she reacted to the blacklivesmatter protester who showed her up at her S. Carolina fundraiser. I think she’s largely indifferent to the situation as indicated by her lack of a policy program to prevent the police from killing black people.

          While I think both Clintons are deeply unethical I could be persuaded to vote for an unethical politician who supported keeping me alive…As FDR once said, “He’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB.” I don’t get the feeling that HRC is our SOB.

          • brewmn

            From the linked piece:

            Clinton has distanced herself from these policies and recently issued a detailed agenda on racial justice. But Williams wants more.

            And then:

            I don’t get the feeling that HRC is our SOB.

            And Trump is? I mean, he’s got the SOB part down, but…

          • ajay

            She didn’t lose my vote until I saw how she reacted to the blacklivesmatter protester who showed her up at her S. Carolina fundraiser.

            That was in late February. So, you were backing Clinton right up to that point, were you?

        • If the GOP ever gave up it’s commitment to white supremacy TJ would rationalize whatever remaining differences he has with them and go full-on wingnut.


          • cpinva

            “If the GOP ever gave up it’s commitment to white supremacy TJ would rationalize whatever remaining differences he has with them and go full-on wingnut.”

            when has he not been? be specific, dates please.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Because being loath to make detailed pronouncements on policy has always been Hillary Clinton’s major failing.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I don’t see a lot of meat on these bones, do you???

          • ajay

            That’s a list of 22 separate proposals. How many more would you like??

          • (((Hogan)))

            What would be an example of what you’re looking for?

        • JKTH

          Edit: Nevermind

  • AdamPShort

    I’m pretty jaded about these reports, but this is a really bad one.

    • DrDick

      It is not even really exceptional, other than in having gotten public scrutiny. Chicago and NYC are at least as bad, and I suspect the same is true of most big cities.

  • Peterr

    I’ve read the whole thing, and one thing about it really grates at me: the absence of names.

    From the report (pp. 8-9):

    Our review of investigative files for all deadly force cases from 2010 until May 1, 2016, and a random sample of over eight hundred non-deadly force cases reveals that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force. Deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, and oversight of officers’ force incidents have led to the pattern or practice of excessive force that we observed. We identified several recurring issues with BPD’s use of force:


    Fourth, BPD uses unreasonable force against people who present little or no threat to officers or others. Specifically, BPD uses excessive force against (1) individuals who are already restrained and under officers’ control and (2) individuals who are fleeing from officers and are not suspected of serious criminal offenses.

    o Force used on restrained individuals: we found many examples of BPD officers using unreasonable force on individuals who were restrained and no longer posed a threat to officers or the public.

    o Force used on fleeing suspects: BPD officers frequently engage in foot pursuits of individuals, even where the fleeing individuals are not suspected of violent crimes. BPD’s foot pursuit tactics endanger officers and the community, and frequently lead to officers using excessive force on fleeing suspects who pose minimal threat. BPD’s aggressive approach to foot pursuits extends to flight in vehicles.

    We also examined BPD’s transportation of detainees, but were unable to make a finding due to a lack of available data. We were unable to secure reliable records from either BPD or the jail regarding injuries sustained during transport or any recordings. Nonetheless, we found evidence that BPD: (1) routinely fails to properly secure arrestees in transport vehicles; (2) needs to continue to update its transport equipment to protect arrestees during transport; (3) fails to keep necessary records; and (4) must implement more robust auditing and monitoring systems to ensure that its transport policies and training are followed.

    Our concerns about BPD’s use of excessive force are compounded by BPD’s ineffective oversight of its use of force. Of the 2,818 force incidents that BPD recorded in the nearly six-year period we reviewed, BPD investigated only ten incidents based on concerns identified through its internal review. Of these ten cases, BPD found only one use of force to be excessive.

    Later on, the report details specific case after specific case where officers used force against people who posed no threat, including those under restraint of some kind. The report identified victims by first name, but no identification of officers at even that level was given, though the DOJ clearly has that information. Frustratingly to me, there seems to be no indication in the report that this review of records documenting this excessive use of force has or will result in any criminal charges being levied against these officers, those who trained them, and those who supervised them.

    Baltimore officials are talking about how this report will change things. But how in the world can a community trust that things are different, if no one will take responsibility for or be forced to take responsibility for the beatings and other abusive behavior that is detailed here?

    If you or I did these things — beating someone with a baseball bat, poking someone with a cattle prod, etc. — we’d be hauled into court without a second thought. Here, you have cops who signed arrest reports saying “Here’s what I did” and no one is going to take their word for it and hold them accountable?

    I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

    • Gregor Sansa

      I’m ok with no names now as long as the people involved are all fired and,as evidence warrants, prosecuted.

      • Peterr

        If that were to happen, I’d expect to see a sentence in the summary saying “We have referred X cases to prosecutors with recommendations for criminal charges and an additional Y cases to the Chief of Police for administrative sanctions.” Absent that, it sure looks as if accountability is sorely lacking.

        I am not a lawyer, but I’m trying to put myself in the place of the DOJ folks looking at this disgusting picture. If I were a DOJ attorney looking at the records of a police department, and the documents in my hands are prima facie confessions that the officer that signed the report committed battery, I would hope that I would do something more than write a report more in sorrow than in anger saying that “mistakes were made.”

        (Yes, I hate the passive voice. Why do you ask?)

        ETA: The absence of records about transporting prisoners strikes me as obstruction of justice, not sloppy recordkeeping.

        • ThrottleJockey

          The police chief did say he had fired six people referred to him by the DOJ so perhaps there’s some additional work behind the scenes hasn’t been well reported.

          • Peterr

            Got a link for that?

            It would be welcome news to me, because the references I’ve seen to these six is that they had been fired separately over the last six months, not as a result of this report. I’ve never heard anything about referrals from the DOJ.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Six Baltimore Police Officers Fired, In the Wake of Scathing Justice Department Report

              While the DOJ just issued this report, my read of the situation is that they’ve been periodically reviewing their findings with Baltimore leadership. The fact that the Chief fired these 6 guys before the findings were publicly released is a good thing. As a Missourian you may recall that Ferguson waited until after the DOJ’s report was final and public to take action.

              • Peterr

                Absolutely right about Ferguson.

                Here, I think you are being charitable. This is one of the articles I had seen yesterday, and it’s silent about any possible pre-publication conversations between DOJ and BPD. Here’s the extent of the relevant portion of the article in its entirety:

                Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said six officers who committed egregious violations have been fired this year.

                “Fighting crime and having a better, more respectful relationship with the community are not mutually exclusive endeavors. We don’t have to choose one or the other. We’re choosing both. It’s 2016,” Davis said.

                I did some poking around to try to find out more about these firings, and they seem to have trickled out one by one in January and February. They may have been related to these findings, or may have been a pro-active effort by the chief to not wait for whatever DOJ might find when egregious offenses came to his attention.

                But still: was the “then make something up” sergeant one of these six? Were these six among the officers who were part of the 2818 force incidents investigated by DOJ? Were they among those who failed to investigate 2808 of those 2818 force incidents?

                My WAG — and it’s a definite WAG — is that these firings were the result of independent work by the BPD, unrelated to specific findings of DOJ. Had there been a specific link, I’d expect the chief to have said something like “We are grateful for the work of DOJ on this, and because of the things they uncovered and shared with us prior to the final report being issued, we terminated six officers earlier this year. Faced with overwhelming evidence of misconduct uncovered by the DOJ, we felt it best not to wait for publication of this report.”

                To be fair, it’s possible that he did say something like that and it wasn’t reported. But based on what was reported, I’m not as confident as you that DOJ made any referrals.

      • rea

        But of course, this is a DOJ report, and DOJ doesn’t have the power to fire state or city police officers, or to prosecute officers for state crimes like assault or murder.

        • Peterr

          It can refer officers for prosecution. They are holding evidence of criminal behavior in their hands.

        • Peterr

          From the Vox link in the main post:

          One telling example: During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a sergeant told a patrol officer to stop a group of young black men. The officer protested, saying he had no valid reason for the stop. The supervisor responded, “Then make something up” — again, in the middle of a ride-along with federal investigators.

          I want to know the name of this sergeant. I want the District Attorney to know the name of this sergeant. I want every police officer on the force to know the name of this sergeant.

          Until that happens, every sergeant on the force is “this guy” in the eyes of the community.

          And I also want to know the name of the DOJ person that did the ride-along, and what they did with this information. Beyond including an account of it in this report without naming the sergeant, that is.

          The dynamic here is exactly the same as the Catholic church’s response to charges that priests were abusing kids and bishops were covering them up. First, denial that abuse happened. Second, admit the abuse took place but do not name the abusers. . . . I’m sorry, but until the priests known to have been abusing those in their charge were named — even when criminal sanction against them was impossible — there could be no healing and no moving forward. Until the bishops known to have been covering up for them were held accountable (I’m talking about KC’s own Robert Finn, found guilty in court and subsequently removed from office by Pope Francis), there is no change in the system.

          • Rob in CT


            The supervisor responded, “Then make something up” — again, in the middle of a ride-along with federal investigators.

            The chutzpah of this… it’s telling. The supervisor doesn’t think he/she is doing anything wrong or, if wrong, anything that will result in negative consequences, with the Feds watching.

            Is there some deal made where “we ride along, you do as you normally do, and to ensure you act normally we promise you won’t be held personally responsible for anything we put in our report?”

          • Gregor Sansa

            The more I think about it, the more I agree with this. At first I thought that it would be okay not to give names for various reasons, for instance, because the people involved might be targeted for revenge, or because the state prosecutor’s would send back prosecution safe than names had been shared and I way they felt was inappropriate. But when I really look at that its just me extending white privilege. If people get shunned because they’re racist assholes, that’s what they deserve. If prosecutors won’t go after cops the way they should, they are not going to suddenly do it just because you were nice about not sharing names. The first step is naming and shaming, prosecutions only come after you processed through that first step.

            • Peterr

              It’s more than just shaming.

              Imagine you are a prosecutor in a run-of-the-mill burglary case. You put the evidence in front of the jury, and bring to the stand the police officers who found the evidence.

              Then the defense attorney stands up, points to this “Then make something up” episode, and says “This is how the DOJ says the BPD behaves. Why should we believe you in this case?”

              The prosecution would object, the judge would sustain the objection, but the point would be made.

              • Gregor Sansa

                Yes. Making the names public is a necessary part of facing this as a society. In the end, the most fundamental aspect of any real justice system isn’t that it sends people to jail, it’s that it puts them on trial; that is, that there is a reckoning. If legal reckoning is still impossible, the first step is public reckoning.

    • Gregor Sansa

      I don’t think that Claude Rains is an appropriate response. This is disgusting, not shocking.

      • Peterr

        My point was to say I am not at all surprised at the lack of transparency and accountability in this report. Perhaps not the best way of making that point . . .

    • BiloSagdiyev

      o Force used on restrained individuals: we found many examples of BPD officers using unreasonable force on individuals who were restrained and no longer posed a threat to officers or the public.

      But… but… don’t you people understand? Some of those handcuffed people might have _said something_ that the cops didn’t like! Or had a smirk on their face! Or were otherwise not showing proper deference and respect!

      I find that to be an under-covered issue with police matters – understandably, given the shit show that technology has made possible in the past 5 years. It’s right up there with cops and EMT’s not providing immediate first aid in the wake of these incidents. Going back to Oscar Grant in 2009, I just have to wonder when I see such footage, “Did he say something?”

      As Domino said above, thin skin.

  • Bruce Vail

    As a Baltimore resident of some 20 years, I’m at a loss to explain this to the rest of you.

    I actually do not blame the police: They are the servants of our civil administration and it is the proper role of our elected leadership is establish a competent and fair policing system. I think that most cops here just do what they are told to do by their superiors.

    I then must take the responsibility on myself for failure to elect officials who can be trusted to do the right thing,

    • Ramon A. Clef

      “I was just following orders” cannot be allowed to justify doing wrong.

      • Peterr


      • Bruce Vail

        This is naive in the extreme.

        Make the comparison with tortured Iraqi prisoners during the late war. Who was responsible for the torture, the contractors or low-level CIA agents who carried out the torture, or the military and civilian officers who ordered it?

        • McAllen


          • so-in-so

            Who will be held accountable is a separate, and disappointing, question.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Your statement has too much Either-Or to it. It’s really “Both”. The fact of the matter is racism is pretty deep in that area of Baltimore and I know that from having lived in the area. I once had some old man a day at the hospital threaten to kick my ass because I was insufficiently subservient and too uppity for his tastes. Meaning you’re going to find many racist cops who would ignore good policies anyways.

          But let me go A Step Beyond racism. If I recall correct only one of the cops tried in the Freddie gray cases was white. The other cops were black. This isn’t simply a matter of racism this is a matter of a culture of bullying.

          • Ramon A. Clef

            Maybe the black officers aren’t racist, but their behavior is empowered by the racist system in which they are participating.

            • ThrottleJockey

              What makes you think these black officers lack agency? Trust me I know some Black cops and they have plenty of agency. They do this stuff because they want to do this stuff.

              • Ramon A. Clef

                I’m not saying they lack agency. But the racist system in which they’re working gives them cover. The “culture of bullying” you cite doesn’t explain the systemic racism the report demonstrates.

                That’s not to say there aren’t bully cops. Of course there are. When the system they’re working in is racist, it empowers the bullies.

                • Ramon A. Clef

                  I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t see bullying as “A Step Beyond Racism,” but racism as a step beyond bullying.

                • rea

                  Yeah, it’s the toxic effect of a culture of racism overlaying a culture of bullying. White people get abused by the cops all the time–hell, I’ve been subjected to abusive behavior by cops within the last year, and I’m a 61-year old white lawyer–but black people are more likely to be killed as a result.

        • Bruce B.

          All of the above. It’s not either/or – there’s no intrinsic limit on the number of involved people who can be guilty.

        • Peterr

          All of them. Why do you seem to think that this is an either/or?

          Eric Holder embraced the defense of the Nuremberg defendants when he refused to hold low-level people accountable and never went after the higher-ups.

          John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury enabled and covered for abuse, and ought to be held accountable. So, too, should those who followed their orders.

    • CP

      Not that it absolves the cops, but yeah, I’d agree that the problem is baked right into society.

      Better training, better hiring, better accountability in police departments are all possibilities. But then you run into the problem that a lot of people in city hall and among their friends like having cops who behave more like hired thugs than an instrument of the law.

      Better accountability for such people at the ballot box, in turn, is also possible. But then you run into the problem that a lot of the more white and middle class parts of the population also like the idea of the poor and black parts of town being treated like an occupied enemy.

  • MacK

    One thing I have observed about Maryland – despite being union in the Civil War – it’s a very “southern” state and a lot of souther attitudes prevail amongst its white population, particularly in the suburbs and tidewater and souther eastern shore areas where a lot of white cops likely come from.

    • Bruce Vail


      Outsiders commenting on Maryland politics invariably note how “blue” the state is, with the Democratic Party enjoying a strong advantage in voter registration. Two years ago we had a D governor, two D Senators, 7 out of 8 D House Reps, and big D majoritis in both houses of the state legislature.

      In 2014, the Democrats nominated a black man for governor for the first time in its history. He lost.

      • Woodrowfan

        I agree race was a factor in Brown’s loss. I wonder though if he wouldn’t have won in 2012 when there was greater turnout to support President Obama. (the county break down is interesting. Brown only won 3 counties and Baltimore City, basically your typical big city/rural divide)

        • Jim in Baltimore

          Well, there’s also the fact that in his years as Lt Governor – an office with no official duties – Brown was given one thing. He was put in charge of the roll-out of the state ACA exchange. It was a failure, and occurred very close to the election.

          And because of that, we have a real estate agent who never held any elected office before as governor.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Then again, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston aren’t exactly exceptions to such attitudes, among police or among the general white population. Let alone Los Angeles! I’m not sure “Southern” is that helpful analytically.

      • CP

        Exactly. I do think there are differences between North and South and that some of those differences come out racially, but when it comes to police brutality, for once, I don’t see much difference. The Chicago PD was caught operating a torture chamber a few years back, FFS.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I definitely should have mentioned Chicago too.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Then again, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston aren’t exactly exceptions to such attitudes, among police or among the general white population. Let alone Los Angeles! I’m not sure “Southern” is that helpful analytically.

        Where do you think the white police and black population of LA migrated from originally? TX, LA, AR, MS.

        I can’t find it right now, but eastern MD was part of the lynching zone of the South back during the lynching era. Here’s a grim map that stops at the Virginia state line, unfortunately…


        • CP

          I do believe Los Angeles authorities made a specific effort to recruit white Southern migrants into the LAPD, because they were believed to be the people most likely to hit hard when black and Latinos had to be put back in their place.

          But if LA cops were specifically recruited to be as racist as possible, that’s as much an indictment of Los Angeles as it is of the South.

  • rea

    despite being union in the Civil War

    Sort of–Baltimore had to be occupied by federal troops to prevent it from joining the other side.

    • Bruce Vail

      also, the part of Maryland south of Washington DC was a hotbed of southern sympathizers. Also much of the Eastern Shore.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I was surprised at how many rednecks I found living out there. I mean crazy ass rednecks the likes of which I only thought lived in the Ozarks.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          crazy-ass rednecks are *everywhere*

          • CP

            Even New York City got one or two hillbillies ready to hit the road.

      • CP

        The more I read about the period, the more I realize “North” and “South” are oversimplifications, as are even “Union” and “Confederacy” – there were hotbeds of sympathy for the other side on both sides of the line. (Some parts of the Appalachian were never really pacified by the Confederate Army, and on the other side, well, there was that time the army had to be called out to restore order in NYC…)

        • rea

          there was that time the army had to be called out to restore order in NYC

          Hundreds, perhaps thousands of black massacred by white rioters

        • BiloSagdiyev

          One part of northern Alabama tried to secede from the CSA, I think.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Then there’s Frederick, MD, aka “Fredneck.”

        • Jim in Baltimore

          Not to mention Cecil County.

  • Rob in CT

    At this point, I’m leaning toward “Policing in ______ is a racist shit-show” where the blank is anycity/town USA. I’m pretty sure if Hartford (and/or its suburbs) got investigated by the Feds they’d find a bunch of shady shit too.

    So… what to do? I get the appeal, at least superficially, of “tear it all down and begin anew” but that’s: a) not gonna happen; and b) I don’t actually think it’s desirable.

    And yet, tinkering around the edges isn’t nearly sufficient. So somehow we’ve got to do better than tinkering without going the tear it all down route.

    My first thought is that, while the rank & file is likely a significant part of the problem, leadership needs to be held accountable first. We need to see heads roll at the supervisory level. The worst of the rank & file need to go too, but without leadership seriously committed to serving the community (as opposed to seeing it largely as the enemy), how does that happen?

    My second thought is that police need community oversight with some actual teeth (which could work with internal affairs*). I’m not sure what this would look like, and how it could be accomplished in the face of total opposition by the police unions (where they exist) and culture.

    My third thought is… um [Rick Perry moment].

    * – I never really thought about it, but isn’t that a pretty fucked up name?

    • J. Otto Pohl

      In most countries other than the US the central organ for the control of the police and security organs including the prison system is the Ministry of Internal Affairs. For some reason in the US the Dept. of Interior deals with forests rather than prisoners doing forestry work in labor camps.

    • so-in-so

      Having all shootings and physical abuse/civil rights abuse cases immediately elevated to Federal level might help. If being the bad apple get’s hard time with any level of consistency, the worst cops will leave and become security guards or Blackwater contractors or bouncers in local strip clubs or whatever, or will figure out how to keep their noses clean until early retirement.

      With the union, the only issue is that they need less control over handling of cases against cops. The Teamsters don’t get to say all traffic violations get investigated and arbitrated by a committee of union members (although truckers HAVE acted against police when their ‘interests’ are threatened. Locally a group surrounded a state cruiser on the highway and forced him to go all the way to the state line).

  • LosGatosCA

    I’m not surprised or shocked at this report or previous reports in LA or New York, etc, etc over the years.

    The simple concept of civilian control over the police force is not deeply enough ingrained in our culture. Not nearly to the same extent as civilian control of the military. That is the root of the problem. Unfortunately, the heads of the police union reflect the preferences of their members and they strongly resist acknowledgement of any ‘outside agitators’ telling them what to do. But they are just a symptom of the underlying culture not the cause.

    We have all seen studies of how people handle power over other people, even in simple situations. Left unchecked, as most police departments are, they will naturally evolve to abuse that power, become callous in exercising it. Ultimately, the blame rests with the civilian populations that are too uninterested in asserting themselves to set the tone, establish professional quality control, monitor results and take timely corrective actions in due course.

    No, it’s much easier to just delegate everything to folks who are out of their sight, back them up with unquestioning juries, and not support prosecutors, judges, mayors who eventually find its easier to go along to get along.

    The NY police turning their backs on DeBlasio was not just a massive act of overt insubordination it was a public fuck you to the entire population that you have no right to control us in any way, even the slightest way.

    Cops in America are only under the amount of self-control they choose to exercise. And they reflect the same amount of self control, or less, as the general population does in exhibiting and acting upon racism, sexism, bullying, etc. it’s extremely predictable that they would prey on the politically weaker, vulnerable members of the population. That population won’t even stand up for themselves – they definitely aren’t standing up for the poor/homeless, the black/brown, rape victims, LBGQT, etc. Better to just sweep it all under the rug.

    Civilian control has to be the mantra that’s fully embraced by all/most of the civilians first.

    • Turkle

      +1 on the DeBlasio thing. It’s very easy to blame mayors and city councils, and of course they are somewhat responsible. But police departments in large cities (and, I imagine, smaller ones as well) are extremely disciplined and independent organizations with the power to flex some serious muscle. DeBlasio was basically facing a threatened police strike which, given his feud with Cuomo and the total lack of support from the Feds, would have been catastrophic for him.

      Someone mentioned above that this sort of thing doesn’t get solved without support from the Feds, and that is totally correct for the above reasons. Mayors and city councils have the power to *enable* the worst abuses, but when things have gone this far, they hardly have the power to just fix it with their magic wands. Police strikes and interference from state governments are too much for local governments to fight on their own. Given that state governments are largely run by crooked right-wingers, it falls upon the federal government to bring in the kind of clout that can truly reform a police organization.

      In sum, God help us.

    • Stag Party Palin

      We have all seen studies of how people handle power over other people, even in simple situations. Left unchecked, as most police departments are, they will naturally evolve to abuse that power, become callous in exercising it.

      Three words: Stanford Prison Experiment. What we see in police is not aberrant behavior. It’s human nature.

      Ultimately, the blame rests with the civilian populations that are too uninterested in asserting themselves to set the tone, establish professional quality control, monitor results and take timely corrective actions in due course.

      I agree but see enormous obstacles. The elected civilian component has been part of the problem, and they probably become corrupt for the same reasons police do. So, how do we create a civilian group with the authority to ‘control’ police without making them part of the problem?

    • wjts

      Civilian control has to be the mantra that’s fully embraced by all/most of the civilians first.

      I think the first thing that has to happen is that everyone needs to understand that distinguishing police from “civilians” is a poisonous idea.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Yes. It was an alien concept when I first encountered it, when I read that the first police to wear police uniforms in NYC in the 19th century were greeted with derision along the lines of Who do you think you are?!

        • ajay

          The Met wore uniforms from the start, but they were deliberately designed to look unmilitary – top hats and dark blue coats. And their ranks were also unmilitary, with the exception of “sergeant”, which is not a uniquely military title. There were and are no corporals, lieutenants, captains or majors in the Met or any British police force: just constables, sergeants, inspectors, superintendents and chief constables (or commissioners).

          • wjts

            Huh. Given he number of (fictional) British police stories I’ve read/seen/heard, you’d think I would have noticed that before.

            • ajay

              And it’s interesting, now I think about it, that the senior ranks have titles that don’t mean “leader” or “commander” or “head” but “watching the junior ranks to make sure they’re doing it right”.

              • sibusisodan

                Terry Pratchett did an excellent job of pressing hard on this, and related, points.

                In fact, the social vision of PTerry is pretty flipping fantastic. I must stop thinking about it before I start feeling sad.

                • ajay

                  “A policeman is a civilian, you inbred streak of piss!”

      • N__B

        Which is why having the police organized along pseudo-military lines has been a mistake.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    I bet that this racism is also incredibly expensive to the city because of all the lawsuits they have to pay. If this money was diverted to paying higher salaries and getting better officers as part of a reform, I’m guessing it could have a significant impact.

    This racism doesn’t make sense on an economic level, unless you believe that the city’s Black residents are going to start a huge crime wave which will destroy everything unless the repression continues. Or perhaps they think that actual policing is ineffective, and the only way to control criminals is to target everyone which ensures that the bad guys will be caught in the same net that catches everyone.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      This racism doesn’t make sense on an economic level, unless you believe that the city’s Black residents are going to start a huge crime wave which will destroy everything unless the repression continues.

      Don’t think that’s not more than a tiny % of Americans. Why, I hear they have a candidate in this presidential election that they really like.

  • Downpuppy

    Bringing together Naming Names & Other Bad departments : Los Angeles Sheriffs have shot 3 unarmed men in 2 weeks:

    Adding to concerns over the incident, however, are two other shootings of unarmed men by the same department in the past two weeks. A homeless man was shot on Aug. 2 while running from deputies. And a man caught tagging a house with graffiti was shot while hiding in a shower. Those shootings are also under investigation, the Times reported.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Somedays I daydream and wonder if technology can solve this, why, if they just had some kind of nonlethal weaponry…

    But then I remind myself that tasers were supposed to reduce the body count and they quickly got turned into “pain compliance” torture devices for all sorts of minor things that wouldn’t have justified a bullet in the past.

    Now, how about that surveillance state? I hate to open Pandora’s box… further… but what if we had footage of that police van, both of the passenger in the back, and the traffic ahead of it, to see if a phony “rough ride” was given based on no actual traffic emergencies in front of the van? And let’s bug the cops locker rooms and barbeques cookouts on the weekends… okay, that would just lead to a horrible case of spy/counterspy, but I just have a strong distaste of death squads (call me a squish), and I fear that’s what things might evolve into in the medium run.

    • so-in-so

      Think outside the box, the non-lethal weapons need to be used in restraining police. A harness that prevents the officer from moving at all, even enough to aim and discharge his firearm. Controlled by “civilian” authority.

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