DOJ Report on Baltimore Police Department. How Unlawful Arrests Are Damaging.
The DOJ released its report on its investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. You can read the entire 164 page report here. I’ve also placed a link to the report on the right-side border under “Documents”.
The DOJ ends its report by summarizing its findings;
“For the foregoing reasons, the Department of Justice concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law. The pattern or practice includes: (1) making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; (2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4 ) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally -protected expression. We also identified concern s regarding BPD’s transport of individuals and investigation of sexual assaults. BPD’s failings result from deficient policies, training, oversight, and accountability, and policing strategies that do not engage effectively with the community the Department serves. “
The part I want address concerns stops and arrests that are not prosecuted.
“BPD officers recorded over 300,000 pedestrian stops from January 2010–May 2015, and the true number of BPD’s stops during this period is likely far higher due to under-reporting. These stops are concentrated in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and often lack reasonable suspicion.”
“BPD’s pedestrian stops are concentrated on a small portion of Baltimore residents. BPD made roughly 44 percent of its stops in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals—nearly all of them African American—were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.”
“Only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in officers issuing a citation or making an arrest. And, as noted below, many of those arrested based upon pedestrian stops had their charges dismissed upon initial review by either supervisors at BPD’s Central Booking or local prosecutors.”
“African Americans accounted for 91 percent of the 1,800 people charged solely with “failure to obey” or “trespassing ”; 89 percent of the 1,350 charges for making a false statement to an officer; and 84 percent of the 6,500 people arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Moreover, booking officials and prosecutors decline charges brought against African Americans at significantly higher rates than charges against people of other races, indicating that officers’ standards for making arrests differ by the race of the person arrested.”
There’s more to this than the surface. It’s the start of a process of institutionalized oppression.
In Maryland, like many other states, prosecutors do not expunge arrest records when they dismiss a case. It’s up to the person who was arrested to dig into their pocket and pay for that process.
There is harm caused to persons who have been unlawfully arrested that needs to be addressed. It involves employment potential, college admissions, military enlistment and other situations when background checks are conducted.
For those individuals who must have licenses and/or certifications to work in their profession, an arrest on their record when it comes time to renew their license might cause them to put in additional time to explain to licensing boards that the case never went to trial.
Many decision makers for hiring and in school admissions are not properly trained to understand background reports. To them, an arrest is an arrest is an arrest. Some have the prejudicial opinion that if a person was arrested, then they must have done something wrong. They don’t want to hear explanations. They are too many other candidates.
Military recruiters are a bit more knowledgeable. However, even when they try to help recruits expunge arrest records, they run into a time-consuming process that takes months and delay the recruiting process.
Several weeks ago, Deray McKesson, an activist in the Black Lives Matter Movement, was arrested during a protest in Baton Rouge. Deray was arrested along with approximately 185 other individuals on charges of obstructing a highway. The charges were subsequently dismissed. Deray and other Plaintiffs have filed a class action lawsuit.
Among the allegations is one that I find to be of utmost importance. It states; “class members were required to post substantial bail and pay administrative fees and court fees to obtain their releases, and will have to pay additional fees and costs to have their arrests expunged. Class members have incurred substantial attorneys’ fees and will incur further attorneys’ fees to clear their criminal arrest records, as a result for defendants’ conduct.”
Personally, I wanted to jump up and down shouting “Hallelujah” when reading the above. At last, it is being acknowledged that the harm of being unlawfully arrested does not end when the individual walks out of the jail.
Expunging a case that was dismissed by prosecutors requires paying fees. The paperwork involved includes sending notices and certificates of service, and can be complicated for the average individual who has no experience preparing documents for filing with the court. The safest thing for them to do is hire legal counsel.
Then, there are court filing fees and if the court orders expungement, there are additional fees for a certified copy of the order. You might ask why that is necessary when the case has been tossed into the circular file? Because there are people who take pleasure when others are arrested and they obtain and keep copies of docket sheets and arrest reports. Those documents can be produced later and since the case will no longer exist, the only defense for the person being smeared is to produce the order of the court expunging the arrest record.
In Maryland, it costs $30.00 to file an expungement case.
Louisiana expungement fees may cost up to $450.00.
In Illinois, along with court filing fees, there is a separate fee of $60.00 to the Illinois State Police to destroy mugshots and fingerprints.
Think about that when considering the DOJ’s finding regarding Baltimore and that hundreds of individuals, mostly Black, were stopped at least 10 separate occasions from 2010-2015 and that seven were stopped more than 30 times.
When pursuing employment or enrollment in school for a vocation that requires licensing or certification, one cannot wait for the unlawful arrests to accumulate to have them all expunged as one case. That means that if an individual is stopped and unlawfully arrested 3 times in one year, and they want to expunge each case upon dismissal, it will cost them $90.00 plus other costs and attorney fees, which can range as high as a thousand dollars.
Even employed people might have difficulty coming up with that amount of money to rid their background of an unlawful arrest. Imagine the stress for those unemployed and the vicious circle where they can’t get a job with an arrest on their record – even an unlawful arrest where the case never went to trial!
The act of arresting individuals when charges are not pursued by prosecutors are not only acts of civil rights violations. It’s like branding the individual, causing future damages that hinders their ability to pursue employment and/or education.
Systemic/institutional racism is structured into political and government institutions. Unlawful arrests that cause perpetual damage to the future of individuals unless they can afford to clean-up the damage they did not cause, is one example of systemic racism. While unlawful arrests also effect citizens of all races, the deliberate arrests of Blacks for misdemeanor defenses to taint their record, is an intentional act of systemic racism that effects more than the individual, but also their families and communities. It’s a big dose of oppression visited generation upon generation.
The Civil War resulted in giving the states the rights to pass their own laws. Thus, how to handle arrests that do not result in trial and/or conviction is up to each state. It makes the job for criminal justice reform harder, and larger. When discussing and instituting criminal justice reform, state legislatures must pass laws that require prosecutors to expunge cases that are dismissed or where the defendant was acquitted, at no cost to defendants. It must be done by order of the court with a free, certified copy to defendants and it should be done immediately after the dismissal of case.
Posted on 08/10/2016, in civil rights, Department of Justice, politics and tagged Baltimore, Baton Rouge, criminal justice reform, Department of Justice, Deray McKesson, DOJ, expungement, investigation, report, unlawful arrests. Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.