Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

A majority of Baltimoreans are dissatisfied with the Baltimore Police Department and do not trust the department’s officers, according to a recent survey from Morgan State University’s Institute for Urban Research.

The survey found that only 12 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that BPD is doing a good job of serving their neighborhood or community. Meanwhile, 63 percent of participants disagreed or strongly disagreed with that view.

More than 70 percent of survey participants said they were “less likely” to engage with Baltimore police in a number of situations, ranging from asking for directions to reporting that their home, care or place of work had been broken into.

The only circumstance in which a majority of people–61 percent–said they would be “more likely” to call BPD was to report that someone had used physical violence against them.

The survey of 645 Baltimoreans was conducted as part of a consent decree between the federal government, Baltimore City and the police department. That consent decree required a monitoring team to investigate Baltimoreans’ experiences with and perceptions of the police department and public safety.

Dr. Natasha C. Pratt Harris, an associate professor and criminal justice program coordinator at Morgan State University, served as the survey’s principal investigator.

More than 80 percent of survey participants described Baltimore’s murder rate as high.

The survey found that 58 percent of participants felt either somewhat safe, safe or very safe in Baltimore City. Meanwhile, the remaining 42 percent of participants felt somewhat unsafe or not safe.

When presented with the statement “I think the Baltimore City Police treats people respectfully,” 52 percent of participants strongly disagreed and 44 percent neither agreed nor disagreed; less than 1 percent agreed.

More than half of the people surveyed said they had observed BPD officers using excessive force against civilians.

One survey participant described an incident in which six police officers “brutally attacked” his brother.

“He showed no resistance and had his hands up, but the officers continued to beat him and then tased him. He did not touch any officers but was charged with six counts of assaulting an officer–supposedly one count for each officer that was beating him up. Those counts were later all thrown out.”

A majority of participants–69 percent–did not believe that BPD officers are “effectively held accountable for misconduct.”

“I called because my ex threatened to kill me and my family, and the officer who responded did not write a report for me and told me not to worry about it,” one of the survey participants said.

The survey was conducted between September 2018 and June 2019.

Surveyors selected participants by using a mixture of methods, including talking to people who were easily accessible to the survey interviewers; targeting “typically hard-to-reach participants” who are more likely to interact with police, such as homeless individuals; and randomly selecting streets in Baltimore and either knocking on doors or approaching people on those streets to interview them.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at