How the Baltimore Police Incited a Riot

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted August 10, 2016

A lot of outside observers were quick to judge protesters, rioters, and “thugs” in the midst of last year's riots in Baltimore. But today's report from the Justice Department makes clear that the people of the city have a right to be angry.

And not just over the death of Freddie Gray.

The 14-month investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department uncovered rampant racism, a flagrant disregard for the constitution, and a total lack of accountability.

Stop Stats

Black residents accounted for roughly 84% of stops, though they represent just 63% of the city's population. And they made up 95% of the 410 people stopped at least 10 times by officers from 2010-15.

One man who spoke to investigators said he was stopped 30 times in less than four years. At least 15 of those stops, he said, were to check for outstanding warrants. None of the stops resulted in charges.

Police stopped black residents three-times as often as white residents after controlling for the population of the area in which the stops occurred.

BPD searched African Americans more frequently during pedestrian and vehicle stops, even though searches of African Americans were less likely to discover contraband. Indeed, BPD officers found contraband twice as often when searching white individuals compared to African Americans during vehicle stops and 50% more often during pedestrian stops.

Many of these stops were made without cause, reason, or justification, and were thus unconstitutional.

They were also ineffective.

Analysis of the BCPD's own data showed that from November 2010 – July 2015, officers made 10,163 arrests (an average of 200 per month) that merited no prosecution whatsoever.

Out of 300,000 pedestrian stops from January 2010 – May 2015, just 3.7% of resulted in officers issuing a citation or making an arrest. And again, many of those stops and frisks were deemed unconstitutional.

“Make Something Up”

In one case, a sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young black men on a street corner. When that officer protested, saying he had no valid reason to accost the group, the sergeant replied: “Then make something up.”

Another boasted on Facebook, “I used to say at roll call in NE (northeast) when I ran the shift: Do not treat criminals like citizens. Citizens want that corner cleared.”

And one commander told a lieutenant to order her officers to "lock up all the black hoodies."

During a 2010 incident, an African-American man witnessed officers use excessive force during an arrest and punch a fourteen-year-old boy who attempted to film the altercation on his cell phone. The officers used “the word ‘nigger’ frequently” and asked him if he “take[s] it up the ass by Allah.”

The man went to the district headquarters to report the misconduct, he was met by the same officers who told him, “what brings your black ass back here?” and “you can take your black ass down to Kirk Avenue before the bus leaves because you know how you black people like the bus.”

Yet, the BPD never investigated the incident’s alleged racial motivation. Instead, detectives categorized the allegations as “misconduct,” “excessive force,” and “unwarranted action.” They then closed the case without conducting a single interview even though, the complaint identified two witnesses.

Free Speech Violations

In addition, to violating the constitutional protection against unlawful search and seizure, BCPD also violated the First Amendment.

The DOJ found officers frequently detained and arrested members of the public for engaging in speech they considered critical or disrespectful. And they often used force against members of the public engaging in protected speech.

One officer, listed an arrestee's "mouth" as his weapon.

To be clear, this is not “a few bad apples” in the police department – it's a systemic failure of bad leadership, insufficient training, and zero accountability.

It's why taxpayers have been forced to foot the bill for more than $7 million in out-of-court settlements related to charges of police brutality. And it's why a lot of angry people took to the streets last year.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of Wall Street's Proving Ground, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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