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Justice Department To Release Investigation Into Baltimore Police


The Justice Department has spent a year investigating the Baltimore Police Department. Sources familiar with the probe tell NPR's Carrie Johnson that investigators have uncovered problems with excessive force and unjustified stops, many of them against black people. Carrie joins us now. Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: Tell us about these findings.

JOHNSON: Some of this is going to sound familiar. In part, we heard it already in Ferguson, Mo., Newark, N.J., and several other cities that the DOJ's Civil Rights Division has studied. In short, in Baltimore, just as in those other places, civil rights investigators found too many unjustified stops for no good legal reason with black people bearing the burden disproportionately.

Also in Baltimore - too much use of force when it's not necessary, police striking back at people for protesting, exercising their rights to free speech and then of course also bad training of police in Baltimore and not enough oversight to weed out bad cops there.

SHAPIRO: Remind us why the Justice Department was looking into the Baltimore Police Department in the first place.

JOHNSON: Well, they were actually invited in, Ari, by the mayor and the city council soon after the death of Freddie Gray. He's the 25-year-old black man who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody in April 2015. His death set off a lot of unrest in the streets of Baltimore and made clear for all to see that there was a lot of tension between police and people of color in the city.

SHAPIRO: What happens after the report is released?

JOHNSON: So in past cases we've seen that these reports set the table for negotiation about how to fix all the problems with police that the Justice Department has uncovered. Usually that involves an agreement, a court-enforceable agreement overseen by a federal judge where the city makes some specific promises to change. And then an independent monitor will come in, Ari, and watch to make sure those changes actually happen.

Now, the cost of this has been a problem in Ferguson and other communities, as you know better than most. They're going to have to thread that needle in this case as well. Baltimore doesn't have a lot of resources to expend.

SHAPIRO: But do you expect them to be cooperative with the Justice Department's findings, especially since they invited DOJ in in the first place?

JOHNSON: All along the way the Justice Department high officials, including the attorney general, the head of civil rights, Vanita Gupta, have talked about how unusually cooperative Baltimore's police commissioner, mayor and city council have been. They do hope - both sides do hope to be able to hammer out an agreement by the end of the year and make it stick.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Carrie Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.