Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is getting tough on criminals, even if the offenders are wearing badges and dressed in blue: She is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the city’s embattled police department to determine if there has been a pattern of misconduct, particularly when cops patrol Black neighborhoods.
It’s the right decision.
“We have to get it right. Failure is not an option,” Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday at City Hall. “Such an investigation is essential if we are going to rebuild trust in the community.”
The mayor wants to ensure the department is not “engaging in a pattern and practice of stops or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment. We cannot be timid in addressing this problem,” she said, “and I am a mayor that does not shy away from our city’s big challenges.”
Rawlings and Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts had already requested a voluntary review of police department policies last fall, reports the Associated Press. But that review did not allow the DOJ to enforce any changes.
Rawlings-Blake’s courageous announcement Wednesday to push for police reform and request a civil rights investigation into her own police department comes one day after Loretta Lynch, the newly-appointed U.S Attorney General, visited Baltimore to meet with police officers and community leaders.
Lynch, the first Black woman to hold the position, met with Rawlings-Blake, Batts and line officers for the Baltimore Police Department, members of Congress, faith, youth and community leaders and the family of Freddie Gray.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said Lynch is considering Rawlings-Blake’s request.
Baltimore erupted into riots and looting last week following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering severe injuries while in police custody. Six police officers have been charged in Gray’s death.
“This is a flashpoint situation,” Lynch told a group of officials after a private meeting with the Gray family. “We lost a young man’s life and it begins to represent so many things.”
For Baltimore’s black community, the events of last week represents a total distrust of the police department and Rawlings-Blake is determined, correctly, to reform a department that black residents call abusive. The mayor’s announcement Wednesday was also meant to calm tensions in the wake of the rebellion in Baltimore last week.