Black leaders demand action on Justice Department report slamming police

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Several of Baltimore’s black leaders responded Friday to the recently released 163-page U.S. Justice Department’s scathing report on practices and procedures of the Baltimore City Police Department.

Just about every aspect of policing in the city going back to the year 2010, was sharply criticized. It cited numerous situations where Constitutional and Civil Rights of citizens were violated on a wide-scale basis. Black neighborhoods took the hardest hits. The violations were often on a systemic level.

unnamedSome of the speakers at the press conference, included Michael Johnson, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham of the Matthew Henson Community group; Elder Cortly “CD” Witherspoon, an Assistant Pastor at Faith Church Baltimore; and, Marcus “Strider” Dent of the Baltimore Region of the “Guardian Angels.”

All of the speakers demanded real and meaningful action on the report. Doc Cheatham underscored how an earlier Justice Department decree, dated in 2009, and covering much of the same ground, wasn’t adequately complied with by the concerned parties. He blamed the “Mayor and the City Council for failing us.”

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham
Marvin “Doc” Cheatham

Cheatham also recalled how the City was successfully sued back in 2006, by the ACLU and the NAACP, for making tens of thousands of unlawful arrests and that the City lost the lawsuit. He added, “Here we are ten years later and revisiting the same injustices.”

Elder Witherspoon (feature photo above) wondered “what is to become of the brutal police killings in Baltimore’s recently embattled past that have evaded the consequence of conviction.” He pointed to the cases of “Tyrone West, Anthony Anderson and Freddie Gray.” Elder Witherspoon asked: “What will happen to these cases?” He added that he intends to “keep asking the questions.”

Dent echoed the remarks of the earlier speakers. He emphasized that his group will work with the community leaders to bring about meaningful changes. The Guardian Angels organization, he emphasized, “believes in partnership, in getting like-minded people together and on the same page.” He urged all of the leaders in the Black community “to get involved.”

The Justice Department Report, however, does have its critics. One of them is Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In an opinion piece for the “New York Post,” on August 11, 2016, he called it a “staggering exercise in cynicism and provides an excellent case study of how democracy and governance in our nation are collapsing.”

Johnson hopes to form an Ad Hock Committee of Baltimore’s Black Leaders coming out of today’s session. That group, he hopes, would stay on top of this issue and make sure that the work that needs to be done “will be done.”