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Baltimore mayor wants federal civil rights probe of police

BALTIMORE -- Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was emphatic last week: She did not want federal oversight of her police department.

"Nobody wants the Department of Justice to come in here and take over our city," the mayor declared as the National Guard enforced a 10 p.m. curfew.

But she changed her stance yesterday and it was hard to find any opposition as she asked the U.S. Justice Department to launch a broad civil rights investigation that could eventually force the city to make changes under the oversight of an outside monitor.

The Democratic mayor now says she'll accept outside intervention to rebuild public trust in a city torn by riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody.

"I am determined not to allow a small handful of bad actors to tarnish the reputation of the overwhelming majority of police officers who are acting with honor and distinction," she wrote in a letter to the new U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch.

The mayor's announcement came a day after her closed-door meeting at City Hall with Lynch, who pledged to improve the police department and told faith and community leaders that "we're here to hold your hands and provide support."

Lynch has received the mayor's request and is considering it, a spokeswoman said.

"I think that's probably a step in the right direction," said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who lifted the city's state of emergency yesterday.

The city's police union and the City Council president also welcomed the development.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, brought in from Oakland, California, by the mayor 2 1/2 years ago to reform the department, didn't immediately respond. The mayor's request could put Batts' leadership under a microscope.

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