The Justice Department’s investigation of Baltimore police this month rebuked the agency for an entrenched culture of discriminatory policing. Deep within their findings, Justice investigators singled out a core failure: Baltimore’s system for identifying troubled officers was broken and existed in name only.
In Baltimore, Justice found that critical disciplinary records were excluded from its early intervention system, that police supervisors often intervened only after an officer’s behavior became egregious and that when they did, the steps they took were inadequate.
Justice highlighted the case of an unnamed officer who was criminally charged after he shot at a car as it drove toward him. When investigators looked into the officer’s background, they found that he had been involved in two prior shootings, had a history of complaints for harassment and excessive force, and had been flagged repeatedly in the early intervention system.
“The Department failed to respond to those alerts in a way that could have uncovered the officer’s condition or otherwise allowed for an intervention,” Justice reported.
The problems with Baltimore’s early intervention system are not isolated to police in that city. In numerous departments nationwide, police have failed to use early intervention systems effectively, Justice has found. Since 1994, 36 civil rights investigations by Justice discovered that local agencies had deeply flawed early intervention systems or no system in place at all, according to a review of those investigations by The Washington Post.