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Civil rights violations subject of Department of Justice probe

After the death of Freddie Gray, the Department of Justice began a probe into the city of Baltimore, Maryland. This probe was recently released and shows that the police department in that city routinely violated citizens' rights. Those violations, which included conducting unlawful stops, are a point that some defendants might be able to use in their defense strategies.

An interesting finding of the probe was that white citizens were more likely to have contraband like drugs and illegal guns when searched during pedestrian or traffic stops, yet black residents were stopped and then searched with more frequency.

Police officers were also instructed to follow discriminatory directive, such as the instruction to arrest "all the black hoodies" in certain neighborhoods. This is on top of the police focusing their efforts on residents who were low-income and minorities.

This probe, which culminated in a 163-page report, shows that black residents are more likely to come under the scrutiny of the police department. The police involvement with this particular minority is disproportionate when you consider the demographics of the area.

Part of the problem was blamed on the aggressive policing tactics that became commonplace in the 1990s. The police department's leaders have said they are against this "zero tolerance" policy of policing; however, the report shows otherwise.

Looking at the numbers cited in the study is troubling. Seven black men were stopped more than 30 times each from January of 2010 through May 2015. Two African-American districts that account for only 11 percent of the city's population were the location of around 44 percent of the more than 300,000 pedestrian stops during that period.

No matter how it's viewed, this report shows the struggle that citizens have when they are trying to have their civil rights respected. Civil rights violations, such as illegal stops, are a huge problem that can sometimes transfer over to the criminal justice system. Exploring the circumstances of your stop, arrest and questioning by police might bring up points that prove useful in your defense.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Justice Department report: Baltimore police routinely violated civil rights," Del Quentin Wilber and Kevin Rector, Aug. 09, 2016

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