The mayor of Baltimore has asked the US Department of Justice to investigate local police. The US attorney general is "actively considering" the request by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
On Monday, Rawlings-Blake said that even though complaints of excessive force and lawsuits alleging misconduct had dropped over the last few years, "we all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community." The mayor asked for a "patterns or practices" investigation, used across the country to look into methods used by the police that "can contribute to excessive force."
The investigation could prove similar to one in Missouri following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer last summer, which found racism and illegal tactics in the Ferguson police. In the past five years, the Justice Department has investigated more than 20 local police departments for systemic misconduct - more than twice the number of cases opened in the previous five years.
Rawlings-Blake said she wanted the Justice Department to investigate whether stop-and-search practices violate the US Constitution. The mayor also said city police officers would have body cameras by 2016.
City on edge
The Justice Department has already launched an investigation into whether Baltimore police violated the civil rights of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a fatal injury in custody April 12 and died a week later. Six officers face charges in Gray's arrest and death - ranging from assault to second-degree murder.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who oversees the Justice Department in nearby Washington, DC, visited Baltimore Tuesday as the city emerged from a weeklong siege following protests over Gray's death. Rawling-Blake instituted a 10 p.m. curfew, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called in National Guard troops to patrol. Hogan rescinded Baltimore's "state of emergency" Wednesday, announcing plans to use $20 million (17.5 million euros) from Maryland's "Rainy Day Fund" to pay for the occupation.
A rights group raised questions about the use of surveillance planes to monitor the situation in Baltimore from the skies by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that someone in Baltimore had spotted the planes on Saturday night and subsequently asked on Twitter whether anyone else had noticed the flights. The response led to the discovery of a previously secret program, which the American Civil Liberties Union has questioned because the overhead surveillance comes unannounced and can observe wide swaths of the city.
The surveillance, if imbalanced, can now go two ways. Seeing a growing market for such software in the United States, inspired techies have developed an app for monitoring police violence.
mkg/bw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)