This year that’s about to close has not been a good one for Baltimore Police Department after all the challenges they faced including controversies on civil rights violations, corruption convictions, and the still unsolved killing of a homicide detective Sean Suiter. They also have to contend with the struggles of a depleted force that must keep up with soaring violent crime. The public’s trust in the Baltimore Police is wavering, if not on an all-time low.
Forbes also lists Baltimore in the number 7 spot of the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities. With only a population of more than 600,000, the violent crime rate almost reaches the 1,500 mark per year.
The pace of killings in Baltimore is staggering. As of September data this year, violent crime has risen 15 percent compared to the same point last year. Police reported about 9,100 violent crimes until September 23, or 1,160 more compared to the same period last year.
The increase in crime apparently is not limited to violent crimes alone, but the surge is happening almost across the board. Less known are the increases in rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries and arsons this year.
Common assaults increased by 22 percent to about 6,400. Aggravated assaults or those attacks that cause severe harm increased 15 percent to about 4,260.
There are also questions on coordination problems among various law enforcement agencies operating in Baltimore. Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, urged city, state and federal law enforcement agencies to return to the kind of coordination that once worked. They also asked for greater support for the majority of police officers “who risk their lives daily to protect the city without engaging in misconduct or corruption.”
Rosenstein also pointed out that criminals have been emboldened by a police department that “has become more like an ambulance service than an investigative agency.”
Bealefeld said that the problematic coordination among agencies has resulted to a “worst-case scenario” for the police- making the officers feel as unsafe and distrustful as residents. He said: “It’s one thing to be politically vulnerable, but now they feel physically vulnerable. When cops feel physically vulnerable, that’s really bad.”
The police force is also heavily demoralized. Former commissioner Leonard Hamm said that the criticism, corruption and Suiter’s homicide are also a burden to the officers. He added: “Those guys in homicide are hurting. When I went to Suiter’s funeral, when I was looking at them- emotionally, physically they were useless. They look just terrible.”
Hamm said that a defeated mentality by the police force will only serve as fuel for criminals to carry out more crimes, eroding public trust in the police more in the process.
The police’s relationship with the community has also become strained, and it is something that needs to be addressed, too.
Then there’s the grave concern with staffing. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he has 500 fewer police officers in 2017 in Baltimore than in 2012.