47 Homicides and Counting
“Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourselves, in all your gates…” [Deut. 16:18]
Here’s what’s happened in Baltimore since charges were announced against six police officers: 47 murders in the past thirty days — three on Monday alone. That’s 128 so far this year, compared to less than 100 at this time last year. 37 victims were black, and 9 were “unknown.” Only one was white. All but 9 were under 35. Six were within 1.5 miles of my house.
WBAL TV reported a 32% drop in arrests since charges were filed — and homicides are up nearly 40%.
The lack of arrests and the rise in homicides go hand in hand. Why aren’t the arrests happening? As they say, “it’s not rocket science.” And whether or not the average cop is ready for law school or astrophysics, he’s no dummy.
He went through the Police Academy, perhaps graduated with honors, and has risen through the ranks as a dedicated officer who follows orders. When the DA asks for “enhanced” policing of a streetcorner, he’s the one who has been ready to do that job. And in the past, were he to see a suspected drug dealer handing off a package to someone else on that corner, he would pursue and detain that suspect. And then, in the past, he would detain the perp, and, were he to be found carrying an illegal knife, the officer would cuff the perp and send him off in the paddy wagon, having done everything right, having acted with the best of intentions to make the city safer for law-abiding residents.
But now the cop knows that should that drug-dealing criminal be hurt, without the arresting officer being in any way present or involved — much less responsible — that officer may be charged with murder by the very same DA who asked them to watch that corner in the first place.
That’s exactly what happened to the three officers who arrested Freddie Gray, and that’s not what police officers sign up to do. So let’s not be all that surprised when police aren’t doing the sort of policing necessary to stop those murders from happening.
Is it any wonder that residents say that police are not as responsive, not as available? They are “behaving differently.” They feel “anxious about what’s going on.” They are “reluctant to respond aggressively.”
Because the cops now know that if they follow their guts, if they detain and frisk someone who looks suspicious, the DA will not only cut them loose, but charge them with a crime if things go wrong. The City of Baltimore will not back them up — never mind that the cops are usually right.
[UPDATE, June 15: since publishing this piece, both CNN and the Baltimore Sun have published articles with officers confirming that everything I described here is accurate. In particular, I want to share two pieces from the CNN interview with two officers.
The officers are afraid to do things, because you have a State’s Attorney right now that’s unpredictable. You don’t know what she’s going to do. When she came out with the statement, when the six officers were charged, she already convicted them in the public view. They have been tried and convicted in public opinion…
Q: Do you feel like those officers acted appropriately?
A: They’ve done nothing different than what we’ve always done as police officers on the street. Those type of arrests happen on a daily basis.
Q: … You would have done the same thing?
O1: Absolutely. It’s being compliant. If you are compliant, you will not have to be engaged by officers. Force has to be used with equal force. If you’re not compliant, you know, that is why police were able to restrain subjects that are non-compliant. The officers did nothing wrong.
It is no wonder that the “criminal element is feeling empowered.” Far better that the drug dealers know that they can be out there carrying a gun, and no cop will be willing to search them. Far better that they be gunning each other down, with open gunfights on the streets of Baltimore — because black lives matter, right?