NAACP: ?Illegal arrests? part of pattern

Local,Luke Broadwater

The Baltimore Police Department is not simply guilty of several, isolated instances of "false arrests," but of a "larger pattern" of illegally arresting citizens, a lawyer representing the NAACP argued in federal court Monday.

"The things that happened [are] part of a larger pattern of practice that has been in place for many years," said attorney Mitchell Karlan, who represents the Maryland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is suing the police department over its alleged arrest policies. "This is a pattern of practice that has been promulgated from the top."

The ACLU also is suing the city and state over what the organizations call a "gross violation of rights." The groups say city police officers make "illegal arrests" and then state jail officials mistreat people taken into custody at Baltimore?s Central Booking and Intake Facility.

The lawsuit accuses the jail of conducting illegal strip searches and holding suspects beyond the statutory time limit of 24 hours.

But city lawyers counter in court documents that arrests for certain "quality of life" crimes are not categorically illegal; that the decision of the Baltimore City State?s Attorney Patricia Jessamy not to prosecute certain crimes does not mean those arrests were unlawful; and that the use of a performance evaluation system for police officers based on the number of arrests is not unlawful.

Assistant Attorney General William Brockman, who represents the state of Maryland, said Monday in U.S. District Court that Central Booking?s practice of keeping detainees for more than 24 hours has been fixed.

"The over-detention problem is largely resolved," he said.

Jenkins Odoms Jr., president of the Maryland NAACP, said city and state officials are in denial about the situation.

"They don?t want to admit they?re doing anything wrong," Odoms said. "They?re arresting people illegally. They?re holding them illegally and they?re searching them illegally. The whole situation is illegal."

The attorneys in the case are expected to engage in a conference call on Jan. 19.

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