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US Justice Department to Decide Soon on Baltimore Probe

Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies, May 7, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice will announce “in the coming days” whether it will investigate possible civil rights violations by the Baltimore Police Department, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Thursday at a congressional hearing.

Lynch's comments came in her first congressional testimony since becoming the chief U.S. law enforcement official last month, and a day after the mayor of the eastern U.S. city requested she order a probe.

A similar federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department in the state of Missouri. The Department of Justice announced late last year that there was reasonable cause to believe the Cleveland Division of Police in Ohio had engaged in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force.

Lynch said the situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of her department. She said it is not only the role of the department to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but also to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place.

Lynch said that although the city has made "significant strides,” more may need to be done. “I assure you, senators, that I am listening to all voices,” she added.

The attorney general said a federal training initiative called Collaborative Reform, which can be used to improve police procedures involving the use of force, began last year in Baltimore at the request of the Baltimore Police Department. "It’s important to note, I think, that Collaborative Reform has been a very successful tool throughout the country,” Lynch said.

She also said there has been a lot of engagement since then between the police and the Baltimore community on ways to improve the city's police department.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland suggested the Department of Justice consider mandating training on ethnic and racial bias and the use of force before federal funds are made available to local law enforcement.

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