By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Less than six months after USA Today declared Baltimore “the nation’s most dangerous city,” the newspaper posted another front page story July 12 about the city’s pervasive violence. But, this article links Baltimore’s ongoing struggle with murder and mayhem with the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising of April 2015.
In an article titled, “Baltimore Police Stopped Noticing Crime After Freddie Gray’s Death. A Wave of Killings Followed,” USA Today cites a plethora of statistics on violence over the last three years. The data reveals a conclusion that is not news to Baltimore’s mostly Black and mostly poor communities—many members of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) have “taken a knee” since the death of Gray, 25, and the indictment of the six officers connected to his death.
Former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who was fired July 8, 2015, a little more than two months after Gray’s death and the subsequent uprising, has argued Baltimore police became less engaged in policing, which led to a rise in homicides.
“The crime issue is not just in Baltimore but in other major cities throughout the United States as a whole,” Batts said in September 2015 during a forum at St. Mary’s University. “Part of the crime rate increase (in Baltimore) is that the police officers at some point took a knee, and they are doing that like other officers.”
Batts’ sentiments are echoed by the BPD’s current interim commissioner, Gary Tuggle. “In all candor, officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015,” said Tuggle to USA Today. “It’s just that fact.”
Tuggle is the department’s fourth commissioner since 2015. Add that carousel of commissioners to the findings of the scathing Department of Justice report on the BPD in 2016, the exploits of the nefarious Gun Trace Task Force—the disbanded elite unit whose former members are behind bars for a variety of crimes—and the unsolved death of homicide detective Sean Suiter in November and you have a department most believe is broken.
In 2018, the city has been behind the record pace of 343 homicides in 2017, going 12 days without a murder during a couple of stretches in the first six months, periods of relative peace that had been unprecedented over the last three years. However, in the last week, the city has witnessed 13 murders for a total of 148 reported by the BPD.
The USA Today story asserts, “What’s happening in Baltimore offers a view of the possible costs of a remarkable national reckoning over how police officers have treated minorities.”
The AFRO’s request for comment from Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh regarding the USA Today story by the office of was not answered by press time.