Freddie Gray Protests May Lead to Federal Investigation

     BALTIMORE (CN) – Fresh off her first official visit to Baltimore, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that she is “actively considering” a request to investigate whether that city’s police department habitually treads on civil rights.
     Although the National Guard is pulling out of Baltimore and protests around the city have quieted, clean-up efforts remain ongoing to repair the more than 200 business that were damaged and looted last week when the April 27 funeral of a man killed in police custody devolved into a night of riots and looting.
     Six Baltimore police officers face criminal charges in connection to the spinal cord injury that killed 25-year-old Freddie Gray, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake upped the ante Wednesday by calling on the Department of Justice to open what is known as a “pattern or practice investigation” into the Baltimore Police Department.
     In a statement through DOJ spokeswoman Dena Iverson, Lynch said she is actively considering the option of an investigation “in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore.”
     Lynch spent her first official trip as attorney general in Baltimore on Tuesday where she met with Gray’s family, local officials and other members of the community.
     The nation’s first black, female attorney general was sworn into office on April 27, the same day riots erupted in Baltimore.
     A section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation “works to protect the rights of people who interact with state or local police or sheriffs’ departments,” according to its website.
     Any investigation would involve the DOJ collecting information from a variety of sources including community members, and relying on police-practice “experts to help review incidents, documents, and agency policies and practices.”
     “These experts also help us to develop remedies, and to assess whether corrective steps have fixed the violations of law,” according to the website.
     Such investigations take on the “use of excessive force; unlawful stops, searches, or arrests; and discriminatory policing,” the website continues.
     “We have looked at bias based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and sexual-orientation,” it says. “We have also addressed unlawful responses to individuals who observe, record, or object to police actions.”
     Such investigations promote “increased transparency and data collection, community-police partnerships, steps to prevent discriminatory policing, investigation and review of uses of force and more effective training and supervision of officers,” the website also states.
     The DOJ notes that it upholds laws including the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin by agencies receiving federal funds.

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