USA Today analysis: After Freddie Gray’s death, BPD officers decreased ‘on-view’ police work

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Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

Baltimore police still respond to calls for help quickly, but following the death of Freddie Gray and trials of officers charged in Gray’s death, the number of cops who report suspicious activity on the streets has plummeted, according to a new analysis by USA Today.

Homicides have surged in the last three years, with 2017 marking the highest murder rate in Baltimore history. As of this writing, the city is up to 150 murders in 2018.

After analyzing 5.1 million police dispatches, from 2013 to 2017, USA Today learned officers “begin far fewer encounters themselves.”

“From 2014 to 2017, dispatch records show the number of suspected narcotics offenses police reported themselves dropped 30 percent; the number of people they reported seeing with outstanding warrants dropped by half. The number of field interviews–instances in which the police approach someone for questioning–dropped 70 percent.”

Acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle conceded to the paper that “officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015.”

Of course, the past years of high arrests also came with many that the Department of Justice found to be unconstitutional in a pattern or practice investigation of the department after Gray’s death. More recently, the convictions of members of the Gun Trace Task Force, an elite group of officers that robbed citizens and drug dealers and admitted to falsifying police reports, cast a light on police corruption.

Tuggle said the fallout from the DOJ report, as well as a shortage of patrol officers, is to blame for the decline in actions initiated by police.

“We don’t want officers going out, grabbing people out of corners, beating them up and putting them in jail,” Tuggle told USA Today. “We want officers engaging folks at every level. And if somebody needs to be arrested, arrest them. But we also want officers to be smart about how they do that.”

The department announced yesterday it was shifting 115 officers in an effort to beef up patrol shifts.

According to the USA Today report, officers have said in national studies that high-profile incidents like Gray’s death have made them less likely to stop and question people.

Jeffery Robinson, a deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper police should be able do their jobs while protecting the rights of citizens.

“What it says is that if you complain about the way the police do our job, maybe we’ll just lay back and not do it as hard,” he said. “If it’s true, if that’s what officers are doing, they should be fired.”

Brandon Weigel

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