Report Indicates Fewer Excessive Force Complaints Against BPD, But Also Drop in Proportion of Officers Living in City

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The Baltimore Police Department’s newest year-end community policing report shows police had fewer excessive force complaints against officers than than in 2015, but also had reductions in the proportions of officers assigned to neighborhood patrols and living in the city.

As required by a law sponsored by former Del. Jill Carter and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2015, BPD publishes an annual report with eight criteria relating to community policing. This past year’s report shows the department experienced a 26-percent drop in excessive force complaints from civilians, from 128 in the previous 12 months before Nov. 1, 2015, to 95 in the 12 months leading up to Dec. 1, 2016.

In an email, BPD chief spokesman T.J. Smith said the department has experienced “a renewed focus on de-escalation” and changed its use-of-force policy in 2016. “Officers are continuing to learn and adapt to new policies and procedures and we believe the numbers will continue to decline,” he said.

In other areas, the number indicate the department made less progress. The report says “a fundamental rule for effective community policing is having a visible and tangible presence in the community.” But a comparison of the annual reports showed a smaller share of officers lived in the city during the 12-month period for the 2016 report (19.5%) than the period for the 2015 report (21.4%). The department also saw a reduction in the share of officers assigned to neighborhood patrol posts, from 87 percent to just below 80 percent.

Speaking on the decline in the share of city-residing officers, Smith said the department’s “staffing numbers, in general, ebbs and flows. You will constantly see the numbers fluctuate and that isn’t unique to Baltimore.” He also noted that Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has been working to increase the share of officers living in the city and that BPD has a partnership with the nonprofit Live Baltimore that introduces new recruits to realtors and helps them learn more about city neighborhoods.

The Department of Justice referenced the share of officers living outside the city in its investigative report published in August 2016, saying investigators were told “roughly three-fourths of BPD officers live outside the Baltimore City limits.” The report stressed the needs for improvements in community policing strategy and remedies for alleged discriminatory practices, all of which are currently being hashed out in negotiations over the pending consent decree for the department.

Responding to a query about the reported drop in neighborhood patrol assignments, Smith pointed out that the department boosted the number of robbery detectives in 2016. “Contractually, the agency is stuck with a schedule that affects the amount of work force that can be placed on the street at a given time,” he said, adding, “We need more officers, we want more officers, and we are doing everything we can to achieve that.”

BPD also shared figures for the proportions of African-American and female officers in the department, officer suspensions and youth intervention referrals, as well as a full description of its community policing efforts. Click here to read the full report.

Ethan McLeod
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