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News Wrap: Baltimore to Partner with DOJ; State of Emergency Lifted

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Mark L. Dennis, Office of the Mayor
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Baltimore Partners with DOJ for Police Reform

Baltimore is partnering with the Department of Justice to reform the city's police force.  Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the plan today, saying the DOJ will investigate alleged police brutality and discrimination. She added that the city's police force will be equipped with body cameras by the end of the year. 

Rawlings-Blake requested a “pattern or practice” investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, in which the DOJ looks for excessive use of force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices.  

“Such an investigation is essential if we are going to build on the reforms we have instituted in the past few years,” Rawlings-Blake said in a press conference. “We cannot be timid in addressing this problem, and I am a mayor that does not shy away from our city’s big challenges. At no other time in our city’s recent history has any administration brought this level of resources to the table to change our police department.”

The move comes in response to the arrest of six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, and a day after a visit to the city by Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Violent protests broke out last week in Baltimore after Gray died from a severe spinal injury suffered while in police custody. Lynch said yesterday that the Justice Department is committed to help Baltimore rebuild from a week of unrest. 

“I came here today to listen, and I’ve heard a great deal from very concerned, very thoughtful people on all sides of this issue,” said Lynch. “[We need] real solutions for the city of Baltimore to improve this city.” Lynch said the Justice Department's investigation into Gray's death will take some time to conclude. She added that her team is working to reform the city's police department while also listening to the complaints of young people.

The Baltimore Police union says it would support a Justice Department probe of the police force. In a statement, police union President Gene Ryan said they welcome the investigation fully as they, too, have issues with many of the department's current policies and procedures.  Ryan says they will cooperate fully with any investigation that has the potential to correct deficiencies and improve morale. 

Maryland Governor Ends Baltimore State Of Emergency 

Baltimore's state of emergency is being lifted by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. He announced today that all 3,000 National Guard members and 1,000 additional police officers are out of the city after being called in to help prevent violent protests over Freddie Gray's death.  Hogan said he would never forget the destruction in the city, but added that he'll always remember the "incredible acts of kindness" that followed.

All Injured Baltimore Cops Out Of Hospital 

All of the Baltimore police officers injured in last week's protests and riots are out of the hospital.  Police announced today that the most seriously injured officer was released this week from trauma care. A total of 130 officers were hurt after protests over the death of Freddie Gray turned violent. Almost 500 people have been arrested since protests began April 23. 

ACLU Questions Air Surveillance Of Baltimore Riots 

The American Civil Liberties Union is moving to find out whether police used airplanes to monitor last week's violence in Baltimore. The ACLU will file information requests today to learn more about two planes seen flying over areas where demonstrations over the police custody death of Freddie Gray turned into rioting, looting and arson. According to the Washington Post, a government official says Baltimore Police asked the FBI to provide aerial support for efforts to stop the violence.  Neither the FBI nor Baltimore Police are commenting. 

Baltimore Cop Says Freddie Gray Had Illegal Knife When Arrested 

One of the Baltimore Police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death says Gray was carrying an illegal switchblade knife when he was arrested. Officer Edward Nero is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says Nero's arrest of Gray was illegal because the knife the 25-year-old man had was legal under Maryland state law. One of Nero's attorneys says the knife operated with a spring, which would make it against local and state laws. Defense attorneys want prosecutors to show them the knife. Nero and five other officers are charged in connection with Gray’s death. 

Federal Labor, Education Secretaries Visit Baltimore

Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Education Secretary Arne Duncan were in Baltimore Wednesday to announce federal funding for neglected communities. Their visits come a day after U.S. Attorney general Loretta Lynch came to town to meet with city officials and the family of Freddie Gray.  Perez and Duncan were joined by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and City schools CEO Gregory Thornton. 

CVS To Rebuild Burned Baltimore Locations 

CVS says it will rebuild its Baltimore stores that were burned during last week's rioting. A store on Pennsylvania Avenue became a focal point during the violence when it was looted and later went up in flames. CVS president Larry Merlo said the company has a long history of serving inner city communities and it is "100 percent committed" to serving patients and customers in Baltimore. CVS says workers were still paid for regularly scheduled hours during the days of protests. CVS says it has also has donated $100,000 dollars toward Baltimore's recovery efforts. 

BSO to Give Free “Concert for Peace”

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra and OrchKids will join forces with gospel choirs from several local churches, and students from Peabody and City College for a free “Concert for Peace” on Saturday, May 9. The concert will be held at noon at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, 2812 Reisterstown Rd., not far from Mondawmin Mall, where demonstrations began last week in response to the death of Freddie Gray. The BSO held a free concert last week outside of the Meyerhoff in support of the community.

Prince to Perform at “Rally 4 Peace”

Prince will perform a special concert this Sunday in Baltimore that organizers call "a catalyst for pause and reflection."  Tickets went on sale Wednesday for "A Mother's Day Rally 4 Peace."  The concert will be held at Royal Farms Arena. The announcement of the special show comes a few days after Prince recorded “Baltimore,” a song that prominently mentions the city while protesting the deaths of African-American men. The song is not yet released, and Prince is reportedly in talks to stream the new song on Jay Z's new Tidal music service. 

 

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