US & Canada

US justice department to probe Baltimore police

Loretta Lynch and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sitting at a table Image copyright AP
Image caption Attorney General Loretta Lynch (L) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake met on Tuesday

The US justice department has launched investigation to determine whether Baltimore's police department engages in routine bias or excessive force.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requested the inquiry after Freddie Gray suffered fatal injuries when arrested, sparking protests and riots.

She said the community and the police had a "fractured" relationship.

Baltimore is the latest of a series of US police departments that are being investigated by the federal government.

"Our goal is to work with the community, public officials, and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who visited Baltimore this week.

She also encouraged other cities to study the department's past recommendations and see whether they can be applied in their communities.

The US department of justice is already investigating whether Gray's civil rights were violated in the incident. The officers involved in Gray's arrest are also facing criminal charges.

Image copyright AFP

Baltimore is already participating in a voluntary justice department review, requested in 2014 by the mayor and Anthony Batts, the police chief. That review enables police to implement reforms without a court order or independent monitor.

But the new investigation would be similar to the one that was done in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in August.

The wide-ranging investigations look for patterns of discrimination within the police departments being reviewed. They can involve the examination of how officers search and arrest suspects, and how they use force against them.

The investigation's results can sometimes include an agreement known as a consent decree, in which the police department in question agrees to make specific changes, while an outside monitor is appointed to ensure compliance.

The justice department formed this kind of agreement with the New Orleans Police Department in 2012, and the police force there was required to make widespread reforms.

In April, the justice department issued a report detailing widespread abuse at the police department in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and called for an overhaul of its internal affairs unit.

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