*NAACP National President and CEO Cornell William Brooks issued the following statement in response to the United States Department of Justice Report outlining systemic civil rights violations practiced by the Baltimore City Police Department:
“The United States Department of Justice report is a damning indictment of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) in particular and American policing in general. When you translate the data in this report into lives harmed, “stop and frisk” really means detain, demean and dehumanize. Zero tolerance shows no respect to the Constitution.
“While some may find this report shocking, it simply confirms what people living and working in Baltimore have known for years – that police officers unfairly target African-American residents for unnecessary stops, searches, and arrests in aggressive and discriminatory ways that violate not only their constitutional rights, but also destroy the trust necessary to truly police its citizens.
The NAACP recognizes the release of the DOJ report as an opportunity for our communities to address the nationwide crisis in policing and to seek concrete change. Communities can take the important step of getting their elected officials and candidates to publicly commit to police reform by signing the NAACP’s Protect and
Preserve Our Lives Pledge.
The pledge increases police accountability and transparency by (1) cutting funding to law enforcement agencies that discriminate and by requiring (2) effective investigation of discrimination by law enforcement agencies, (3) detailed data gathering and reporting, (4) comprehensive use of force standards, and (5) independent review of police violence. The DOJ report shows that these reforms are essential to rebuilding the broken relationships between police and the communities they serve.
No funding for discriminatory policing: Baltimore taxpayers have been paying for a police department that routinely discriminates against its citizens. The report found that the BPD engages in a “Zero Tolerance” enforcement strategy that results in aggressive and unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests of pedestrians; engages in racially discriminatory policing, violates protestors’ First Amendment rights, and uses excessive force and unnecessarily escalates situations, with particular deficiencies in the treatment of juveniles and persons with mental illness. Paying to be discriminated against just compounds the injustice. The threat of defunding can be a powerful tool for change.
Effective investigation of law enforcement agencies: Not all communities will have the benefit of a year-long DOJ investigation to uncover a pattern and practice of discrimination. But all communities should create agencies that have the authority to independently review the actions of law enforcement to ensure that discrimination is not occurring. This civilian oversight should include independent civilian complaint review boards that have subpoena power to effectively investigate police misconduct.
Full data reporting: The available data uncovered startling disparities, such as the fact that “hundreds of individuals—nearly all of them African American—were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015.” However, gaps in the data collected obscured problem police behaviors in stops, use of force, and injuries to people in police custody. Without information about how communities are policed, systemic policing failures will remain unacknowledged and unaddressed.
Use of force standards: The DOJ found that the BPD uses aggressive tactics that escalate tense situations and result in the excessive use of force. These actions put the mentally ill and juveniles at particular risk. Without comprehensive use of force standards that include training on de-escalation and crisis intervention, police interactions will remain dangerous for both police and those they encounter.
Independent review of police violence: The DOJ report revealed serious deficiencies in accountability that allowed unconstitutional actions to go unchecked in the BPD. The DOJ found “a resistance to accountability persists throughout much of BPD” with police officers “reluctant to report misconduct for fear that doing so is fruitless and may provoke retaliation.” With such a culture in place in many police departments, there can be no confidence in the investigation of police violence against community members without outside independent investigators.
The DOJ found hope in the dedication of the community and the City of Baltimore to address the serious deficiencies the report exposed. The NAACP also finds hope in this moment of both conviction and opportunity. We call upon leaders throughout the nation to join us in working for a society in which our lives are protected and preserved.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.