A Justice Department Investigation Of Baltimore Police Is Underway, Loretta Lynch Announces

In a press conference Friday — one week after Baltimore's top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that charges would be brought against all officers present when Freddie Gray sustained fatal injuries in the back of a police van in April — Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Department of Justice would be opening its own investigation into Baltimore police. According to The New York Times, which broke news of the investigation in a report Thursday, investigators will examine whether the Baltimore Police Department repeatedly broke the law in its dealings with citizens. Mosby said last Friday that the arrest of Freddie Gray was, according to prosecutors, patently illegal.

Gray was arrested on April 12 and taken away by officers in a police van. He was, Mosby said last Friday, not offered a seatbelt and fatally injured while in the van; when Gray left the van, the 25-year-old wasn't breathing. He died a week later in hospital. The six officers who arrested and transported Gray have been arrested and charged with several offenses ranging from second-degree depraved-heart murder to manslaughter to assault.

The Baltimore case will be Lynch's first major test as the country's attorney general. After an agonizing wait of 167 days while Congress bickered over anti-abortion language in a bill supposedly about human trafficking victims, Lynch was confirmed in mid-April.

She said at Friday's press conference:

Rather than examining whether the police department violated good policies, we will examine if they violated the constitution and the community's civil rights.

The protests in Baltimore that erupted after Freddie Gray's death and turned violent after his funeral held eerie parallels to Ferguson, where protests broke out after officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown last summer. Then-attorney general Eric Holder opened a DOJ investigation into Ferguson Police Department's practices, and the ensuing report found that Ferguson's African-American community was frequently and illegally targeted by law enforcement over the city's white residents.

Said Lynch of Baltimore:

The investigation will begin immediately and focus on allegations that the Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force, including deadly force, conduct unlawful searches, seizures, and arrests, and engage in discriminatory policing.

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