In April 2015, a black man by the name of Freddie Gray died from injuries sustained in a police van. His death sparked outrage and riots in Baltimore. The 6 officers (3 black, 3 white) who faced trial for his death were either acquitted or had the charges dropped.
According to Larry Elder, despite claims that the city was suffering from systemic racism at the time of his death, the mayor of Baltimore City was black, the AG was black, the police chief was black, his deputy was black, the majority of the command centre was black and the city council members were predominantly black and all Democrat. We shouldn’t forget that the US president was also black.
As a result of the riots that followed Gray’s death, the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) went soft on crime. Police actions fell off a cliff. Arrests had been declining for years but decelerated even quicker post-2015.
From 2014 to 2017, dispatch records show the number of field interviews fell 70%. Suspected narcotics offences reported by police fell 30%. The number of people BCPD reported seeing with outstanding warrants dropped by half. The acting police commissioner admitted, “In all candour, officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015. It’s just that fact.”
Homicides exploded. In 2017, Baltimore hit its highest per-capita murder rate ever. It was double Chicago’s rate and in absolute numbers higher than New York, a city 14 times as populous.
An informal survey of 15% of BCPD officers taken by the council showed that officers were afraid to make arrests in the aftermath. A third of those surveyed had served in BCPD for over 20 years.
40% said they felt “inadequately trained”
43% said they do not feel “comfortable making self-initiated arrests”
68% said they do not feel “city leadership supports law enforcement.”
74% said they “feel restricted by the consent decree,”
78% said they felt the department had “lowered hiring standards.”
One officer responded, “Morale won’t rise until the Department and its officers receive consistent public support from the Mayor, City Council and State’s Attorney. No one is asking that corruption be tolerated. What we are asking is that when we investigate crimes and make arrests or issue citations that our elected leaders support us when we encounter resistance.”
Another mentioned, “We don’t have enough people in my unit. The volume of cases we have is absurd given our manpower. It leads to mistakes, and inadequate follow up investigations which lead to sloppy prosecutions. None of which is for lack of trying.”
A shortage of funds? The budget for the BCPD has grown from $455 million in FY2015 to $536 million for FY2020, begging the question of why arrests and prosecution of crime haven’t matched the increased spending?
When analysing the breakdown of the BCPD budget, composition matters. Police patrolling will decline from $253 million in 2015 to $202 million in the 2020 budget. The number of police allocated to patrol will fall from 1,851 to 1,363 during the same period. Administration expenses will jump from $44 million to $94 million. Crime investigation will rise from $52 million to $53 million off from the low of $35 million in 2019.
Just as we saw with our study on fire services around Australia at the time of the bushfires, more money doesn’t always lead to better outcomes if those custodians don’t have the skills to sensibly allocate those extra dollars.
Like many government bureaus or departments, it doesn’t appear to be a question of just throwing more money at policing but far better stewardship of funds, a more defined focus of mission and a council that supports law enforcement by cutting red tape which leads to the types of outcomes that benefit the community at large.
Woke policing doesn’t work. Baltimore is proof.