As Baltimore saw record murders this summer, we were being treated to a smorgasboard of theories about the reason why. The DEA seems to prefer the looting at drug stores that introduced new pills into the market. Others think maybe the police didn’t want to do their job after seeing six of their colleagues charged in connection with Freddie Gray’s death. Now that he’s a little freer to speak, it looks like former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is going with Choice B.
According to WBAL, Batts spoke at a forum at Mt. St. Mary’s on Wednesday night where he said officers “at some point took a knee” following Gray’s death and the unrest that followed. In other words, they stopped being proactive and making arrests.
This appeared to oddly put Batts, who was fired by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in July, in agreement with the president of Baltimore’s police union, who at one point after the charges said that officers were afraid of being arrested for doing their job. But union president Gene Ryan said in a statement that officers didn’t, indeed, take a knee.
But Ryan said he did agree with Batts’ comments that members didn’t feel supported by the chief. Here’s how Batts explained that tension:
Police officers in Baltimore will tell you that they felt I wasn’t standing up for them at the end,” Batts said. “I asked them, ‘What do they want in a police chief?’ To hear them say it, is: Anything that they do, they want the police chief to stand up and say my guy was right. You can’t do that.”
Current police commissioner Kevin Davis, who served in a leadership role under Batts, doesn’t agree with this. After seeing the comments on Twitter, Davis said he “respectfully disagrees,” reports Joy Lepola Stewart of Fox45.
Even if Batts’ perception of the police is right, it’s still only part of the bigger picture. And Batts acknowledged this in his remarks, saying that murder rates are up in cities across the country this summer.
The New York Times has a bigger picture look at the issue, which says Baltimore has the third-highest percentage increase in homicides since 2014, with the 215 killings recorded in the city at the time the article was written representing a 56 percent increase.
The highest is in Milwaukee, where the police chief told Times reporters that police are likely conducting fewer traffic stops and field interviews due to “free-floating anxiety.”
But the reporters also point out that people are starting to use guns to settle “petty” disputes, pointing one story that started on Facebook.
“Most remarkable is that individuals get so upset over things that I or others might consider petty but resort to such a level of violence,” said Mike Sack of the Milwaukee police.
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