Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general, announced in May that the Department of Justice was investigating the record of the Baltimore Police Department.

When Tawanda Jones was contacted by a lawyer from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, she was anxious to tell her story about how officers from the Baltimore City Police Department and Morgan State University caused the death of her brother, Tyrone West, on July 18, 2013.  But she wanted the federal officials to hear from more than her family members.

“This is bigger than Tyrone West,” she said at a town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College, held at her insistence and hosted by Del. Jill P. Carter.  After telling about 100 people packing the Nelson Mandela Room how her brother was “brutally murdered by the police” during a traffic stop near the corner of Kitmore and Kelway roads, Jones added: “The saddest part is it’s not just your family. It’s families. It don’t just end with your family. “ She is now joining with others around the nation to petition the United Nations to look into police misconduct as a human rights violation.

A team of lawyers from the Civil Rights Division has been in Baltimore since Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general, announced in May that she was undertaking a comprehensive investigation of “patterns or practices” that may indicate discriminatory policing.

“The relationship between police and the people they are sworn to protect and serve is one of the biggest issues in the country right now,” Michael Songer, a lawyer on the Baltimore team, said Saturday.  “We’ve certainly seen in Baltimore what happens when that trust is severed and breaks down. “

What Songer heard from Baltimore residents, J. Wyndal Gordon, a lawyer, and Louis Hopson Jr., a veteran police officer, Saturday is what happens after the thousands of arrests in Baltimore, a significant number of which never lead to formal charges; and what happens after the most publicized in-custody deaths, which often lead to vilification of the victims as well as callous disregard for their family and friends. A common theme was routine physical abuse, verbal abuse and abject disrespect. Dr. Lawrence Brown, a professor at Morgan State University, broke down how Baltimore’s history of “hyper-segregation” and its police department where 90 percent officers do not live in the city contribute to a police department that views blacks as a suspect class. Several people, including Sgt. Hopson, talked about civilians as well as police whistleblowers being targeted for retaliation.

Songer, who previously was a lead attorney in a Justice Department case against a North Carolina sheriff for racial profiling, said the investigation in Baltimore will probably last longer than the six months it took to look into the Ferguson, Mo., police department. He hopes it will take less than the 18 months involved in examining practices in Cleveland, where the Justice Department forced that city to sign a consent decree last December that officials said should “not only serve as a road map for reform in Cleveland but also as a national model.”

In Baltimore, Songer said, Justice Department lawyers will not limit their review to the deaths of Freddie Gray in April, Officer William Torbit in 2011, Anthony Anderson in 2012 and West in 2013. Instead, he said, they will look into police stops, searches, arrests, use of force and allocation of resources  to determine if there have been “broader systematic violations of the Constitution.”

Carter, a longtime champion of criminal-justice reform who Prof. Brown describes as “the best legislator we have bar none,” said she was pleased with “the quality of the discussion,” which is often missing at the many town hall meetings held here. “People were able to tell their stories and know that they are not alone,” she observed.

Anyone interested in telling their stories may call the Justice Department team’s toll free number, 1-844-401-3733 or Carter at 410-367-3939. She and Gordon are among members of the National Bar Association, which has set up a rapid response team to help people file complaints.