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ACLU, NAACP sue Baltimore police over 'illegal' arrests

[JURIST] The Maryland American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [advocacy websites] filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in Baltimore Circuit Court [official website] Thursday alleging that Baltimore police systematically arrest people and hold them for hours without charge [press release]. The lawsuit - which names Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley [official website], present and past police officials, state corrections officials and individual police officers as defendants - also alleges that officials at the Maryland Central Booking and Intake Center often perform strip searches and body cavity searches on people arrested for minor offenses such as loitering, impeding or obstructing pedestrian traffic and disturbing the peace, as well as detain them in dirty and overcrowded jail cells.

The suit claims that policed arrested more than 76,000 people last year, and that 30 percent of those cases were dismissed after a preliminary review. The ACLU-MD believes that the Baltimore police department rewards its officers for the quantity of arrests, and tends to make unreasonable and unconstitutional arrests as a result. City Solicitor Ralph Tyler called the allegations "truly wild," adding that the plaintiffs will not be able to prove them. ACLU attorney David Rocah said that the lawsuit aims to change police policy and offers a remedy proposal [PDF text], including creating an incentive program for police officers to make arrests that are likely to be prosecuted and expunging the record of arrestees when they are not prosecuted. AP has more. The Baltimore Sun has local coverage.

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