US Justice Dept mulling Baltimore police probe

Riot police holding their position during a protest in Baltimore, Maryland against the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, on April 25, 2015 (AFP Photo/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Washington (AFP) - The US Justice Department is mulling a federal probe into Baltimore's police department following riots in the city triggered by the death in custody of a black man, an official said Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department said new Attorney General Loretta Lynch was "actively considering" a civil rights probe into the city's police department following a request from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Rawlings-Blake asked for an investigation that would look into whether the city's police department "has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches or arrests" that violated residents' legal rights.

Such a civil investigation led to a damning report on racism and biased law enforcement in the police department of Ferguson, Missouri, the town where a police killing of an unarmed 18-year-old black man last year sparked extensive and sometimes violent protests across the nation.

In Baltimore, riots erupted last week after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from spinal injuries sustained when he was arrested in a public housing area.

The death of Gray was the latest in a string of incidents that have exacerbated racial tensions in the US and prompted protesters to allege racism and excessive force in the country's policing.

Unusually, six officers were charged in the death of Gray with counts up to second-degree murder.

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