On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on the state of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) as a part of its civil rights investigation following the death of Freddie Gray.
“The Justice Department announced today that it found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution as well as federal anti-discrimination laws. BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression. The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies that have persisted within BPD for many years and has exacerbated community distrust of the police, particularly in the African-American community. The city and the department have also entered into an agreement in principle to work together, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation.”
I have been stunned by the muted reaction by both the Black community and the media.
Let me remind you that at the time of Gray’s death last year, Baltimore had a Black mayor, a Black police chief, a Black prosecutor, a Black president of the city council, a Black congressman and an almost fifty percent Black police force.
Juxtapose that with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a few years ago. The Justice Department, led by then-Attorney General Eric Holder, went to Ferguson and did a similar investigation and found identical results to Baltimore. The Ferguson reports are very similar to the report issued about the Baltimore Police Department.
The media narrative about Ferguson was that the police force was racist. White cop kills unarmed Black man. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Blacks make up roughly 70 percent of the population in Ferguson and more than 20 percent live in poverty. When Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, the mayor was White, there was only one Black on the six-member city council (.096 percent) and only three Blacks out of 53 policemen (5.6 percent) and was listed as the sixth most segregated city in the U.S.
The NAACP’s president and CEO, Cornell Brooks basically copied and pasted the statement he issued after the Ferguson reports and reused it for the Baltimore report.
The NAACP is “supposed” to be the nation’s premier civil rights organization, but time after time they have been shown to be huge hypocrites. Upon the Justice Department’s release of their damning report on Ferguson last year, Brooks said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “the mayor needs to resign.”
Strangely enough, Brooks never called for the resignation of the Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is a Black Democrat.
I am really trying hard to understand what is going on here. Ferguson and Baltimore were both run from top to bottom by Democrats, both cities had an unarmed Black male killed at the hands of their police and both cities erupted in violence after the incidents. The Justice Department came to the same conclusion about both cities: that the cities and their police forces were incompetently run and employed policemen who violated a plethora of federal and civil rights laws.
The only difference between the two cities comes down to race. Ferguson was run by all Whites and Baltimore was run by all Blacks.
So, if Ferguson was a “racial” issue, what do you call Baltimore? Why have our Black civil rights leaders and activists reacted differently to the Justice Department’s report on Baltimore’s police department?
Where are the cries for Rawlings-Blake to resign? She also serves as the secretary of the Democratic National Committee and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Why is she not being asked to resign from those positions?
Most of the violations listed by the Justice Department happened during her time as mayor. Is she not also a racist? Americans, in general, and Blacks specifically must be consistent in their calls for justice and equality, whether the mayor of a city is Black or White.
If they preside over a law-breaking, corrupt police department and allow that type of culture to fester, shouldn’t that elected official be forced out of office?
We, as Blacks, lose the moral high ground when we are not consistent in our quest to make America a better nation. Whites lose the moral high ground when they constantly try to minimize the role that race plays in our society. Both approaches are equally as wrong, but we both must strive to be equally right.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Black Press USA.