U.S. Justice Department lawyers hear from residents about Baltimore police at public hearing

Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, talks to Baltimore residents  about the department's investigation of  Baltimore's police department.

Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, talks to Baltimore residents about the department’s investigation of Baltimore’s police department.

The University of Baltimore School of Law was the site of a public meeting Thursday night led by lawyers from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice who are investigating Baltimore’s police department. The attorneys are examining whether Baltimore police have engaged in a pattern or practice of violating residents’ constitutional rights or in discriminatory policing.

After introductory remarks by Professor Michael Higginbotham, Civil Rights Division chief Vanita Gupta and Tim Mygatt, the special counsel to the Civil Rights Division who will lead the investigation, the Justice Department lawyers met with individuals and small groups of Baltimore residents to hear about their experiences with the Baltimore police.

Mygatt told the audience in the Moot Courtroom that the investigation will entail interviews with police officers and citizens, as well as a review of thousands of documents and sophisticated data analysis. He said the investigation could take more than a year to complete.

Mygatt also said the investigation was not prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, though he added that any instance of police misconduct is “a piece of the investigation.”

“We don’t open an investigation because of one incident,” Mygatt said. “It’s not just a single incident, it’s not just a single event. It’s something we’re hearing from a whole variety of sources to make sure we have good cause and reasonable cause to investigate.”

Read about the public meeting in The Baltimore Sun.

The event was covered by several other media outlets, including The Associated Press, whose story was picked up by The Washington Post, among other publications and programs.

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