Baltimore Police Used This Fill-In-The-Blank Template to Arrest Black People

August 10th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

After a 14-month investigation, the U.S. Justice Department released its report on Baltimore police Wednesday, detailing patterns of misconduct, discrimination, and unaccountability that have led to "deeply eroded" community-police relations. One chapter from the report — "BPD Makes Unconstitutional Arrests" — contains a troubling example of how racial discrimination was embedded in the city's policing practices.

Baltimore police routinely arrested people for violating city trespassing and loitering ordinances "without providing the constitutionally required notice that they are engaging in prohibited conduct," the Justice Department found. What's more, the agency found that BPD officers frequently arrested people standing on public sidewalks and streets for "trespassing" when they didn't think those people had an acceptable reason to be there.

In one Baltimore district, officers were given a template to describe trespassing arrests to sergeants or patrol officers.

trespassing template

The form is designed to simplify the trespassing arrest process, but while officers were required to fill-in-the-blank for details such as the date, time, location, and name of the suspect, there are two fields that come pre-filled: "black male" and "public housing development."

"We found evidence that BPD supervisors have explicitly condoned trespassing arrests that do not meet constitutional standards, and evidence suggesting that trespassing enforcement is focused on public housing developments," the Justice Department wrote, adding that "[t]he supervisor’s template thus presumes that individuals arrested for trespassing will be African American."

In response to the report, Baltimore's police commissioner Kevin Davis said that the department would not tolerate biased policing practices and noted that an unspecified number of officers have already been fired based on the DOJ investigation. The report reveals police tactics that are "fostering fear in our communities," Davis said at a press conference on Wednesday. The department will work with the Justice Department on a series of reform measures meant to curb misconduct and discrimination in the city's police force, The Associated Press reports.

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