In the last three years 1,005 people have been added to the murder list in Baltimore. Several homicides from previous years (for example, the shooting of William Wallace in 1995, which led to his death in September was counted in the 2017 total), always wind up being counted towards any given year, if you want to be accurate with this grisly math. But, what is clear is the vast majority of the murdered in 2015 (344), 2016 (318) and 2017 (343), have been Black males. On the first day of 2018, we picked up right where we left off in 2017; two more Black men dead.

Andre Galloway, 16, who was killed around 3:45 p.m. in the 2000 block of Eagle St., in South Baltimore was the first homicide victim of 2018. About two hours later, Brian Taylor, 30, was killed in the 5100 block of Goodnow Rd., in East Baltimore.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

“We end 2017 with an unacceptable number of homicides and overall violence. That much is clear to us all. As your police commissioner, the buck ultimately stops with me. What to do about it all requires a collaborative and holistic approach,” wrote Commissioner Kevin Davis in a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Dec. 30 titled, “Police commissioner: BPD making strides.”

“Murders and corruption dominate the headlines and make it difficult for Baltimoreans to truly understand the strides in public safety necessary for the Baltimore Police Department to fundamentally succeed in a way it has never known. Those improvements are now taking place in an organization that has long been one dimensional and unable to establish momentum that outlasts a calendar year or an election cycle.”

Kevin Davis can be a compelling, even charismatic figure when engaging with the Black community. And the statistics he cites in the op-ed, connected to internal accountability within the BPD seem encouraging. But, to suggest in the wake of the last three years that the BPD is “making strides,” damn, that’s a hard sell.

In 2015, there was the murder of Freddie Gray (the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide), gravely injured while in police custody. His death sparked the uprising. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice delivered its devastating report saying Baltimore Police routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s mostly Black and poor communities by conducting unlawful stops, illegal arrests and beating the hell out of mostly poor, Black people.

In 2017, the nefarious actions of the now disbanded and disgraced Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), came to light. Also in 2017, the murky circumstances of the still unsolved murder of Baltimore Homicide Det. Sean Suiter, has led a broad cross section of Baltimoreans to believe he was killed by a member of his own department, because Suiter was scheduled to testify (the day after he was gunned down) in a case involving the GTTF.

I think the most cogent observation Davis made in his op-ed is, “it requires a collaborative and holistic approach,” to combat violence in our city. In fact, the farcical belief police should continue to have an outsized role in reducing violence and murder in Baltimore is unfair to the police and the people they have sworn to serve and protect.

At the end of the 1990’s, BPD  imported much of its law enforcement identity from New York City; from rogue police commissioner, Ed Norris, who ended up serving time in a federal prison, to the catastrophic “zero tolerance” policing strategy, which ignited 100,000 arrests (one-sixth of the city’s population) for several years in the early 2000’s. In case you forgot, a huge percentage of those arrests were deemed unlawful and the charges were dropped. Yet, the arrest records for those people — mostly Black, mostly poor, almost all male — have remained in place for the most part. Much of Black Baltimore still has not recovered.

In recent years, New York has eschewed both zero tolerance and the unconstitutional “stop and frisk,” policing strategies. And in 2017, the city of 8.5 million people registered about 290 homicides, its lowest murder rate since the 1950’s.

Let that sink in; Baltimore with a population of about 620,000 people lost 343 people to homicide in 2017, while New York with a population of more than 10 times Baltimore’s, registered less than 300 murders.

Numbers don’t lie.

Sean Yoes is Baltimore editor of the AFRO and host the AFRO First Edition video podcast, which airs Monday and Friday on the AFRO’s Facebook page

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor