Written on 5/29/15
This year, the chances of being killed in Baltimore exceed those of a U.S. soldier dying in combat in Afghanistan or a Mexican citizen being murdered by drug cartel violence.
The citizens of Baltimore and members of its beleaguered police force remain reeling from the aftershock of the riots and violence following the recent in-custody death of street person Freddie Gray.
This Memorial Day weekend concluded with 29 shootings resulting in nine deaths. So far this month, Baltimore has recorded 35 homicides and the month isn’t over yet. With 100 murders already recorded this year, the city of 625,000 is well on its way to surpassing its historic all-time 1999 record of 305 murders. Non-fatal shootings have increased four-fold. In stark contrast, the multi-cultural West Coast city of San Jose, CA with over 950,000 has experienced less than 50 recorded homicides each year for the past five years.
Baltimore, whose violent Western District residents and mayor have politicized the in-custody death of Freddie Gray and sharply criticized their police force for proactivity, have seen sharp declines in police detentions and arrests. Disturbances, felony property crimes and violence in the city have soared. Police report that their morale is in the toilet and that they have lost confidence in their mayor, police chief and commissioner. It is clear that Baltimore officers are holding back and who can blame them?
Who in their right mind would even want to be a police officer these days? In just over ten years, police officers have gone from being 9-11 heroes to zeros in the eyes of some citizens and the media. Those in uniform are criticized as a group for the actions of a relative few. American citizens and the media remain uninformed of constitutional case laws and police practices that allow police to stop, detain, search, arrest and use force if need be upon citizens. Citizens and the media have unrealistic expectations of their police. A biased media and jet hopping racial activists forward false “Hands up; don’t shoot” narratives to advance their own selfish agendas. Prosecutors, who once worked with police, now seek to indict them. Baltimore officers report that whenever they detain a subject, they are immediately surrounded by a score of agitated, harassing citizens armed with cell phone cameras who taunt them. This is not only an obvious distraction, but a potentially serious threat to officer safety.
Befuddled, clueless mayors like Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and New York’s de Blasio insult their own officers and readily throw them under the bus. President Obama, who touts himself as a constitutional scholar, yet couldn’t articulate the laws of search and seizure without a teleprompter, has no problems incorrectly scolding police and ordering his Justice Department to muzzle them.
It appears that the police have had enough. They are confused about their policing role in today’s changing society. Police need to be properly led, but presently it is abundantly clear that leadership at the federal and municipal levels is sadly lacking. I fear that police will cease being proactive in communities that fail to clearly support their efforts. Baltimore and New York provide evidence that a slowdown has begun. And who can blame them?
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and police expert who leads a forensic Independent Review Team investigating police uses of force at www.martinelliandassoc.com.