Today, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, released a report on its investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) that concludes there is “reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.” The report details the BPD’s pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests disproportionately targeting African Americans, its use of excessive force and its retaliation against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.
The report also expresses concern that officers are displaying unlawful gender bias in their interactions with female victims of sexual violence and transgender people. It cites several examples, including BPD officers making disparaging and inappropriate comments to transgender individuals, and refusing to acknowledge transgender people’s gender identity. In addition, DOJ investigators heard from several sources that the BPD lacks guidance on the appropriate process for searching transgender people.
These injustices are compounded by the many others faced by Black people of all gender identities and sexual orientations at the hands of BPD. The effect of this unlawful behavior is significant. “Systemic deficiencies in BPD’s practices contribute to constitutional violations, erode community trust, and inhibit effective policing,” the report states.
Data show that LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration among Black transgender people when compared to all other racial and ethnic groups, and the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released a report earlier this year on “how the broken criminal justice system fails LGBT people.” Today’s report from the DOJ provides examples of how these injustices manifest on the local level.
This DOJ report confirms the lived experience of many Black people, especially Black transgender people, in Baltimore. HRC is heartened to hear that the City of Baltimore recognizes the issues DOJ has identified and is committed to reform. As DOJ and Baltimore work together to improve the state of policing in Baltimore, HRC will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to push for criminal justice reform on the federal level.