With unrest in Baltimore lingering weeks after the riots following Freddie Gray’s funeral, the relationship between the community and the police department remains strained. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has recently made headlines in an attempt to mend this relationship, and now it seems as if Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby may be following in her footsteps.
Mosby and members of her team met with several police officials this past Friday. Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for Mosby, said that the meeting was used to find solutions that work for everyone involved: “Since the beginning of this administration, we have been collaborating with the Baltimore Police Department and continue to do so. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and some of her deputies met with the BPD command staff [Friday] to identify training needs and develop strategies to improve cases.”
These new ideas are needed now more than ever. This past May broke the record for Baltimore’s most homicides in one month in the past 40 years: August of 1990 saw 42 homicides, but May topped this at 43. And despite this alarming statistic, the number of arrests has gone down.
Unfortunately, some citizens of Baltimore would not even find this surprising. In fact, several pharmacy owners still have yet to hear back from police about incidents that occurred at their stores during the riots after Freddie Gray’s funeral more than a month ago. Peter Okojie, who owns two Care One pharmacies in Baltimore, said of the police, “They say they are too busy. We have not seen or heard from them. We have it all on surveillance video. We have pictures.”
But is it really being busy that’s holding the police back Not necessarily. According to the Baltimore police union, the problem is that police are afraid to do their jobs:
The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest. Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect. Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty. Right now they can go to jail for following Supreme Court decisions such as Illinois v. Wardlow. The Baltimore States Attorney’s Office essentially overturned the Supreme Court’s decision.
In Illinois v. Wardlow, Sam Wardlow attempted to flee after seeing two police officers. When the officers eventually caught Wardlow, they confiscated a .38 caliber handgun and arrested him. The officers believed the stop and frisk was justified simply because they were in a high crime area and Wardlow attempted to flee, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with this decision.
Anthony Batts, Baltimore police commissioner, reiterated the union’s statement. He claims his officers are fearful of the consequences they could face simply for doing their jobs and making what they believe are good arrests.
Despite this fear, Batts and his team appear receptive to Lynch and Mosby’s efforts at necessary changes. While Batts did claim that his team is afraid, he also admitted that the police “are part of the problem.”
“The community needs to hear that,” he said. “The community needs to hear from us that we haven’t been part of the solution, and now we have to evolve. Now we have to change.”
Although an admission of guilt does not bring back the lives of Freddie Gray and the countless others who were murdered at the hands of police, Baltimore can only hope that it is a step in the right direction. And with the continued efforts of leaders such as Marilyn Mosby, Loretta Lynch and the members of their teams, hopefully a brighter future lies ahead for Baltimore’s understandably fearful citizens.