Newly confirmed Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced this morning that the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into Baltimore police practices in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, The Baltimore Sun reports.
The announcement comes one day after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for such an investigation. “This investigation will begin immediately,” Lynch said Friday. “It was clear to a number of people looking at this situation that the community’s rather frayed trust – to use an understatement – was even worse and has in effect been severed in terms of the relationship with the police department.”
The attorney general, who visited Baltimore earlier this week, referenced the success of similar investigations in municipalities around the country. “The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has conducted dozens of these pattern or practice investigations,” she said, “and we have seen from our work in jurisdictions across the country that communities that have gone through this process are experiencing improved policing practices and increased trust between the police and the community.”
According to the Sun, 20 such civil rights investigations have been conducted over the past half a dozen years, including, most notably, recent probes into the police departments of Ferguson, Mo., and Cleveland.
Gray died on April 19th after his spine was severed while in police custody. His death incited protests and riots among citizens who, as President Obama recently remarked, have long experienced a “sense of unfairness and…powerlessness” regarding the actions of law enforcement. This is especially true for young men of color, who, the president noted, are too often “treated differently” than white Americans by the police.
Lynch was just confirmed as attorney general on April 23rd, making her the first African-American woman to hold the post. Lynch’s confirmation was historic for another reason: It was the longest-delayed attorney general confirmation in modern history, thanks to a protracted battle over unrelated legislation by Senate Republicans.