Baltimore police 'stopped noticing crime' after Freddie Gray riots
A remarkable article in USA Today confirms what common sense and intelligent observation have told us for years. Immediately following the Baltimore race riots that ensued after Freddie Gray was found dead in the back of a police van, Baltimore cops began to "stop noticing crime." They still responded swiftly to calls for help. But the police force turned a blind eye to crimes being committed right in front of them.
The analysis by USA Today examined millions of Baltimore police records and determined that a shocking rise in crime occurred that was directly related to a fall in "on view" reports of crime by police.
"Immediately upon the riot, policing changed in Baltimore, and it changed very dramatically," says Donald Norris, an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who reviewed USA TODAY's analysis. "The outcome of that change in policing has been a lot more crime in Baltimore, especially murders, and people are getting away with those murders."
Police officials acknowledge the change. "In all candor, officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015. It's just that fact," says acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, who took command of Baltimore's police force in May.
Tuggle blames a shortage of patrol officers and the fallout from a blistering 2016 Justice Department investigation that found the city's police regularly violated residents' constitutional rights and prompted new limits on how officers there carry out what had once been routine parts of their job. At the same time, he says, police have focused more of their energy on gun crime and less on smaller infractions.
"We don't want officers going out, grabbing people out of corners, beating them up and putting them in jail," Tuggle says. "We want officers engaging folks at every level. And if somebody needs to be arrested, arrest them [sic]. But we also want officers to be smart about how they do that."
The change has left a perception among some police officers that people in the city are free to do as they please. And among criminals, says Mahogany Gaines, whose brother, Dontais, was found shot to death inside his apartment in October.
"These people don't realize that you're leaving people fatherless and motherless," Gaines says. "I feel like they think they're untouchable."
The drop in reported crimes was shocking and real. As the murder rate and other violent crime spiked from 2014-17, arrests for other offenses plummeted. "[D]ispatch records show the number of suspected narcotics offenses police reported themselves dropped 30 percent; the number of people they reported seeing with outstanding warrants dropped by half. The number of field interviews – instances in which the police approach someone for questioning – dropped 70 percent."
Policeman Jack Dunphy describes the mindset of those cops:
Officers disengaged from proactive police work, minimizing their risk of being the next cop to be seated in the defendant's chair in some Marilyn Mosby show trial. The prevailing thought among Baltimore's cops was something like this: They can make me come to work, they can make me handle my calls and take my reports, but they can't make me chase the next hoodlum with a gun I come across, because if I chase him I might catch him, and if I catch him I might have to hit him or, heaven forbid, shoot him. And if that happens and Marilyn Mosby comes to the opinion that I transgressed in any way...well, forget it. Let the bodies fall where they may, and I'll be happy to put up the crime-scene tape and wait for the detectives and the coroner to show up.
The bottom line is that Baltimore politicians pandered to a constituency that was not concerned with public safety and was more concerned with gaining power and influence over the police department – even as the crime and murder rate began to skyrocket. They were terrified about gaining the disapproval of the national liberal press for cracking down on rioters and criminals than they were concerned about the morale of police officers and the safety of residents.
That is truly despicable.