Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department, Office of Civil Rights, came out with its big (163 page) Report excoriating the Baltimore Police Department for a laundry list of outrageous, deficient, discriminatory and unconstitutional policing practices. This is the Report that has resulted from the Justice Department investigation launched in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in the custody of Baltimore police in April 2015.
You can get some idea of the extent of the systemic deficiencies that the feds uncovered by looking at a few of the section headings in the table of contents:
BPD Engages in a Pattern or Practice of Conduct That Violates the United States Constitution and Laws . . . .; BPD Makes Unconstitutional Stops, Searches And Arrests; BPD Discriminates Against African Americans in its Enforcement Activities; BPD Uses Unreasonable Force; BPD Fails To Supervise Its Officers' Enforcement Activities; BPD Fails To Adequately Support Its Officers; BPD Fails To Hold Officers Accountable For Misconduct; BPD Lacks Adequate Systems To Investigate Complaints And Impose Discipline . . . .
And that's just a sample. As you might suspect, there is a pervasive theme of discrimination against and unfair treatment of African Americans by the Baltimore police. For instance, from the executive summary:
[I]n Baltimore, . . . law enforcement officers confront a long history of social and economic challenges that impact much of the City, including the perception that there are “two Baltimores:” one wealthy and largely white, the second impoverished and predominantly black. Community members living in the City’s wealthier and largely white neighborhoods told us that officers tend to be respectful and responsive to their needs, while many individuals living in the City’s largely African-American communities informed us that officers tend to be disrespectful and do not respond promptly to their calls for service. Members of these largely African-American communities often felt they were subjected to unjustified stops, searches, and arrests, as well as excessive force.
What time period is covered by this Report? It's very unspecific. The Report is all written in the present tense. The clear impression conveyed is that they are talking about both right now and at all recent times.
Well, this is quite the disaster. So who is responsible?
Funny, but somehow they seem to have omitted the answer to that question from this Report. Let's consider some of the possibilities:
- There's the Mayor. The Police Department ultimately reports to her. That would be Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor since 2010. Of course, she is an African American. So was her predecessor, Sheila Dixon (2007-2010). Before that it was Martin O'Malley (2000-2007) -- white, but serious left-winger to make Bill de Blasio look small time. And before that, Kurt Schmoke (1987-1999), another African American. All of them Democrats, of course. (Baltimore hasn't had a Republican mayor for over 50 years.) Anyway, you won't find any of these names, let alone race or party affiliation, in this Report.
- How about the police commissioners? The current guy, Kevin Davis, is white; but he only got the job in October 2015, after the Freddie Gray fiasco, to clean up the perceived mess. On whose watch did Gray's death occur? That would be Anthony Batts (2012-2015), an African American. Here's a review of Batts at the Marshall Project: "Batts came to town as the darling of progressive police reformers, who were excited by his PhD in public administration and the enlightened views he honed researching at Harvard rather than his record as an urban police chief. But in Baltimore he was regarded by the rank and file as a carpetbagger and an egghead — misgivings that turned to open hostility after scores of officers were injured in riots following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody." Going back before Batts, the police commissioner was a guy named Frederick Bealefeld (2007-2012), who was white; and before that, Leonard Hamm (2004-2007), who was black. Anyway, you won't find any of these names in this Report either.
- But maybe the Baltimore police force is overwhelmingly white, in a city that is majority black. Actually not. Again, although this Report harps at length on alleged racial discrimination by the Baltimore police, you won't find this information here. But the Daily Caller compiled some statistics in May 2015, immediately after Gray's death:
Here’s what the data shows about the racial makeup of Baltimore’s finest:
* Of the 2,745 active duty police officers in the department — 1,445 — more than half are African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American, according to data provided by the Baltimore police department to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
* Four of its top six commanders are either African-American or Hispanic.
* More than 60 percent of the incumbents at the highest command levels hail from minority communities.
* Among the 46 Baltimore police officers who hold the rank of captain and above, 25 are from ethnic or racial minority groups. That constitutes 54 percent of the command leadership.
If you are looking in this Report for some explanation of why a series of African American mayors, African American police commissioners, and a majority-minority police command structure, not to mention the police rank-and-file, systematically discriminate against African Americans, you will not find it.
So could it be that there has been this completely pervasive misconduct going on totally in the open for years upon years and absolutely nobody bears any responsibility? I would only point out that in a world where the Justice Department claims the right and privilege to tell the Baltimore police department how to behave, then the Justice Department itself must accept the responsibility for the situation. After all, these problems all occurred right under the nose of the feds, in the nearest city of any consequence to Washington, just about 40 miles up the road. If you have the right to tell them what to do, then you bear the responsibility if they didn't do what you think they should have done. (Oh, the Attorneys General for the past almost-8 years have also been African Americans, not to mention the President. So?)
UPDATE, August 12: Somehow I had missed that the New York Times ran two big articles yesterday on this Report. The bigger one, starting on page A10, is headlined "Police Bias Found in Baltimore, and Many Ask What Took So Long." Excerpt:
“Mere words by officials mean little when it’s people on the ground who are living with these material conditions every day,’’ said the Rev. Heber Brown III, a Baptist pastor who was among a small group of community leaders who met privately last year with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “From the streets to the suites, everybody is skeptical and furious.’’ In one stark statistic after another, the department’s report helped validate the experiences of Mr. Brown, Mr. Kelly and countless others in poor African-American neighborhoods who regard the police as an occupying force.
So perhaps they might at least ask the question of who here bears any responsibility? Really, don't be ridiculous. With one exception, they don't so much as mention the name, race or political affiliation of any individual in a position to bear responsibility, whether (starting from the top) it's Obama, Holder, Rawlings-Blake, Batts, or anyone else in the police command structure of Baltimore at the time of the Gray incident. The one exception is Rawlings-Blake, whose name they mention, but not race or political affiliation. And responsibility? Don't be silly. She is merely said to have "accepted the findings." And don't forget, she just got rewarded with the honor of chairing the Democratic convention!