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Tag: Baltimore

Justice Department May Weaken Police Reform Agreements

police lightsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department plans to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide to determine if the consent decrees will sacrifice the Trump administration’s goals of establishing law and order.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the agreements between local police forces and the DOJ’s civil rights division will be reviewed by his top two deputies, the Washington Post reports. 

“The Attorney General and the new leadership in the Department are actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public,” Justice officials said in a memo. “The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”

The move comes after the Justice Department asked a federal judge to postpone a hearing on police reform agreements with the Baltimore Police Department for up to 90 days.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh opposed the extension request, saying the consent decree was a helpful tool in reforming the police department, Reuters reports. 

“Much has been done to begin the process of building faith between the police department and the community it seeks to serve. Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect of eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish,” she said. 

The agreement was reached in January following the death two years previously of Freddie Gray, a black man killed while in police custody.

The Justice Department wants to determine whether the consent decree inhibits the enforcement of law and order.

“The Department has determined that permitting it more time to examine the consent decree proposed in this case in light of these initiatives will help ensure that the best result is achieved for the people of the City,” they wrote, asking for a hearing set for Thursday to be postponed until June.

NTSB Investigates Bus Crash That Killed 6, Injured 10 in Baltimore

An MTA bus

An MTA bus

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a deadly crash in Baltimore that occurred after a school bus veered into oncoming traffic and struck a Maryland Transit Administration bus.

Six people were killed and 10 were injured Tuesday morning, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Four passengers and both bus drivers were killed in the crash, and an additional two passengers were in critical condition.

The school bus was not carrying any students.

“It literally looks like a bomb exploded in the bus,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said. “It’s catastrophic damage.”

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the bus driver to veer into the opposite lane. They plan to interview a school bus aide who sustained minor injuries in the crash.

The school bus driver was a 67-year-old man. 

Other Stories of Interest

Gordon Johnson, a 21-Year-Veteran of the FBI, Takes Helm at Bureau’s Baltimore Division

FBI's Baltimore Division.

FBI’s Baltimore Division.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Gordon Johnson, who has worked with the FBI since 1995, has been named special agent in charge of the Baltimore Division.

FBI Director James B. Comey announced the appointment this month of Johnson, who most recently served as deputy assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division at FBI headquarters.

Gary Johnson

After entering the FBI in 1995, Johnson was first assigned to the New York Field Office, investigating national security issues.

Johnson has held numerous leadership positions, including in the Counterintelligence Division and Baltimore Division, a senior representative to the U.S. Cyber Command at the NSA, as special assistant to the FBI’s associate deputy director and as the acting special agent in charge of the Norfolk Division.

The FBI said Johnson will take the helm in Baltimore at the beginning of October.

FBI: Murders Surged in U.S. in 2015, While Violent Crime Rose Nearly 4%

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-7-18-08-am

Via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Murders surged 10% in 2015 over the previous year, while violent crime rose nearly 4% in the same time period, according to the FBI’s annual crime report.

The increase comes after two years of declines in violent crime in the U.S.

Still, violent crime rates remain much lower than two decades ago.

“The report shows that there was an overall increase in violent crime last year, making clear what each of us already knows: that we still have so much work to do,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said Monday in Little Rock, the Washington Post reports. “Violent crime endangers lives, destroys families and paralyzes neighborhoods … In some ways, violence affects all of us — and so all of us have a responsibility to end it.”

The largest increases in homicide came in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

“But the report also reminds us of the progress that we are making,” Lynch said. “It shows that in many communities, crime has remained stable or even decreased from the historic lows reported in 2014. And it is important to remember that while crime did increase overall last year, 2015 still represented the third-lowest year for violent crime in the past two decades.”

Unreasonable Police Searches Are Illegal And Happen Far Too Often

police lightsBy Steve Chapman
Chicago Tribune

The most memorable moment of the recent Democratic National Convention was when the father of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq demanded of Donald Trump, “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Conservatives, however, also revere our founding document. At the first tea party rallies in 2009, attendees waved copies.

But the Constitution is not self-enforcing, and one important section has eroded to the point of invisibility: the Fourth Amendment. It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” In much of America, that guarantee is an empty promise.

The latest evidence came in a report on police practices in Baltimore, issued Aug. 10 by the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation spurred by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. It documents that the city’s law enforcement officers operate with virtually no regard for the Fourth Amendment.

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cops may stop someone when they have reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity and, if they have reasonable grounds to think the person is armed, may frisk him lightly to detect weapons. They may not stop anyone they please, and they may not vigorously search a citizen’s clothing and body without a good reason.

The court intended to empower police only within strict limits. It emphasized, “No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.”

But the Justice Department found that in Baltimore, police routinely stop people on the street without reasonable suspicion, conduct physical searches that lack adequate grounds and exceed legal limits, and arrest people without justification. Each of these practices is more than a mistake: It is a violation of fundamental liberties at the heart of what it means to be an American.

To read more click here. 

Strip Searches, Racial Disparities Among Problems with Baltimore PD

baltimore police departmentBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s investigation into the Baltimore Police Department revealed a number of alarming findings.

The Washington Post examined the report and highlighted these excerpts from the investigation:

“BPD Conducts Unconstitutional Strip Searches”

“Numerous Baltimore residents interviewed by the Justice Department recounted stories of BPD officers ‘jumping out’ of police vehicles and strip-searching individuals on public streets. BPD has long been on notice of such allegations: in the last five years BPD has faced multiple lawsuits and more than 60 complaints alleging unlawful strip searches.

“BPD Ignored Prosecutors’ Warnings Against Problem Officers”

“Even where prosecutors have provided BPD with specific information on problematic officers who routinely make improper arrests, searches, or seizures, the Department has failed to meaningfully investigate the information or take appropriate action.

“BPD’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Strategy Focused on African American Neighborhoods”

“In some cases, BPD supervisors have instructed their subordinates to specifically target African Americans for enforcement.

“Racial Disparities in Arrests”

The racial disparities in BPD’s stops and searches are further reflected in BPD’s arrest practices. From November 2010 – July 2015, BPD charged African Americans with 280,850 criminal offenses, constituting over 86 percent of all charges filed for which the race of the offender is known.

Justice Department: Baltimore Police Routinely Violated Civil Rights of Residents

baltimore police departmentBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Justice Department investigation determined that Baltimore police often are quick to stop, search, arrest and use excessive force on black residents who often did nothing wrong.

The investigation, prompted by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, found deficiencies in training, supervision and policies “that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of federal law,” the Baltimore Sun reports. 

Part of the problem stems from a zero-tolerance policy that encouraged officers to make a lot of stops, searches and arrest without the proper training.

The investigators concluded that “supervisors have issued explicitly discriminatory orders, such as directing a shift to arrest ‘all the black hoodies’ in a neighborhood.”

Police practices in Baltimore “perpetuate and fuel a multitude of issues rooted in poverty and race, focusing law enforcement actions on low-income, minority communities” and encourage officers to have “unnecessary, adversarial interactions with community members,” the report said.

FBI Released Aerial Video Footage of Baltimore Protests

FBI surveillance video from the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore.

FBI surveillance video from the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI captured more than 18 hours of aerial surveillance video from the Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

The video was shot from traditional piloted aircraft, not drones.

The videos were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.

The raw video is available at the FBI’s website.

The FBI has been using surveillance planes since the 1970s.

Other Stories of Interest