Just a couple of months ago, America’s eyes were on Baltimore after the fallout over the fatal police shooting of unarmed Black 25-year-old Freddie Gray. However, it seems police are now falling out as crime rises in the city.
Reports indicate that in May, Baltimore saw 43 homicides, the most in any month since December 1971. Numbers from the FBI indicate that the average number of murders in Baltimore in May in the past six years was 21.
Arrests are also down in Baltimore by 57 percent. Police are blaming the arrest and charging of the six officers involved in the death of Gray for making fewer arrests.
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said in a statement last week that officers are afraid to do their jobs, fearing arrests similar to what happened to their fellow officers in the Gray case.
“The criminals are taking advantage of the situation since the unrest,” he said. “Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect. Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than getting shot on duty.”
Two people were killed June 2, marking the first homicides of the month in Baltimore. However, critics of the department say officers could be deliberately scaling back on arrests in retaliation for the arrests of the six officers. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at a recent City Council hearing that a new deployment schedule is to blame. Officers recently changed from a five-day, eight-hour work week schedule to four 10-hour days.
“We anticipated a year of growth, a year of evolution,” he said. “We had some hiccups at the midnight shift when we should have had more officers out there. Right now we’re putting all officers on the streets. Not just in cars, but in posts.”
Meanwhile, the department is looking to improve safety conditions in prisoner transport vans.
Gray died while in a transport van, however, officers have been accused of giving him what is known as a “rough ride,” where they make deliberate bumps and drive recklessly to injure people in custody.
Batts wants to improve the department’s fleet of 24 vans at a cost of $15,000 per vehicle, including installing cameras, new doors and eliminating the center partition. The goal would be to eventually buy new vans.
“My goal is to make Baltimore a national leader in prisoner transport,” Batts said. “I think out of chaos comes opportunity. We’re taking this opportunity to improve.”