The US Justice Department plans to launch a pattern or practice investigation into the methods of the Police Department in Baltimore, which was rocked by protests and violence over the police custody death of a black man.
The investigation was requested by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, a city of 600,000 people, two thirds of them black, about 65 km northeast of Washington.
It is expected to be announced officially on Friday, CNN reported citing a law enforcement source.
The investigation comes in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died a week after his April 12 arrest due to a fatal spine injury that he suffered while in police custody.
Six officers have been arrested and face various charges, ranging from false imprisonment to murder.
In asking for the investigation, Rawlings-Blake said such an inquiry was necessary to achieve the kind of “sustainable and significant reform” of the department that she and the citizens of Baltimore want to see.
“The DOJ has employed these investigations in communities across our nation to reform serious patterns and practices of force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices by law enforcement,” she told reporters.
“I’m asking the Department of Justice to investigate if our police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment.”
The Justice Department is already investigating whether Gray’s civil rights were violated.
But the so-called pattern or practice investigation would be far broader, a full-scale civil rights investigation of the entire police department, CNN said.
The inquiry would be similar to the one conducted in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown last summer.
The Justice Department’s investigation there found systematic discrimination against African-Americans in that city by the police department and the municipal court system, with blacks subject to far more vehicle stops, citations and arrests than their proportion of the population.
Blacks were more likely to be searched during traffic stops and cited for minor infractions, and 88 percent of the cases in which police used force were against African-Americans, who make up 67 percent of the population of Ferguson.