US

Justice Dept. report critical of zero-tolerance policing

  • Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, discusses the department's findings on the investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department as  Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, right, listens on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 at City Hall in Baltimore.  The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks.  (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

    Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, discusses the department's findings on the investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department as Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, right, listens on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 at City Hall in Baltimore. The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)  (The Associated Press)

  • Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, listens as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks during a news conference at City Hall in response to a Justice Department report, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 in Baltimore. The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

    Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, listens as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks during a news conference at City Hall in response to a Justice Department report, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 in Baltimore. The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, left, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta listen to a question during a news conference at City Hall in response to a Justice Department report, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 in Baltimore. The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

    Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, left, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta listen to a question during a news conference at City Hall in response to a Justice Department report, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 in Baltimore. The Justice Department and Baltimore police agreed to negotiate court-enforceable reforms after a scathing federal report released Wednesday criticized officers for using excessive force and routinely discriminating against blacks. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun via AP)  (The Associated Press)

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.