To supporters, zero-tolerance policing has long represented a logical crime-fighting approach: Crack down on minor infractions before they mushroom into more serious and disruptive violence.

But a scathing federal government report on the Baltimore Police Department suggests the costs of that strategy outweigh any reduction in crime.

The Justice Department report released Wednesday blames zero-tolerance policing for a legacy of discriminatory law enforcement in which black residents are disproportionately stopped and searched without cause.

The conclusion forcefully rejects a strategy that critics condemn as unduly harsh and one that has fallen out of favor in some of the same cities, including Baltimore, where it was developed and regularly employed.

Over the years, the strategy has divided academics and police and government officials.