Mayor tells Baltimore police officers to do their jobs

Baltimore's mayor said police officers in a work slow down will face sanctions.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, addressing an alleged slowdown in police activity since six officers were charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, said Wednesday that she had told police to do their jobs.

Police commanders, meanwhile, moved a regular meeting to the neighborhood where Gray was arrested in an effort intended to show their commitment to the city.

Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she has told the Fraternal Order of Police — the police union — that officers need to do their jobs or face internal discipline.

"We know there are some officers who we have some concerns about," Rawlings-Blake told reporters at City Hall. "I've been very clear with the FOP that their officers, as long as they plan to cash their paycheck, my expectation is that they work."

Some officers have said in recent weeks they are hesitant to make arrests, out of concern that Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby could prosecute them if a suspect is injured.

Union representatives have criticized police leadership, saying officers were not equipped with safety gear and proper orders during the riots of April 27, when 160 officers were injured.

As a result, the union has said, morale among officers has fallen.

Arrests have fallen sharply in recent weeks. May saw the most homicides in the city since 1990. At the same time, police arrested fewer people than in any month for at least three years.

Several neighborhoods saw arrests decline by more than 90 percent from April to May, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of police data. Citywide, arrests declined 43 percent.

Rawlings-Blake said she doesn't believe that all officers have backed off. She pointed to successes such as the arrests of three suspects in the June 6 sexual assault and killing of 16-year-old Arnesha Bowers.

"It's clear that arrests are down, and it concerns me and" police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, Rawlings-Blake said. "I don't want to paint all of the officers with a broad brush. ... I encounter officers every day who are in the crime fight, who are out doing their jobs."

Lt. Gene Ryan, the president of the police union, said his organization is not saying officers aren't doing their jobs — only that they have concerns.

"Is there a work slowdown? Absolutely not," Ryan said in a statement to The Sun. "Officers are out every day making arrests for crimes throughout the City.

"Officers may be second guessing themselves, though. Questioning if I make this stop or this arrest, will I be prosecuted? But to say there is a slowdown in work or 'blue flu' is false."

Public accusations between the mayor, Police Department and union began shortly after the riots, and some city officials believe the continued jabs are not helping the city move forward.

"I wish it wouldn't be so," said Councilman Robert Curran. "If they're not on the same page, they need to get on the same page, and I think they will."

Council Vice President Edward Reisinger added that citizens are growing tired of the sniping.

"The residents of the city of Baltimore don't want to hear all that rhetoric," he said. "They want to see results. They want to see leadership."

Batts spent Wednesday morning with his deputies and commanders under a white tent on a basketball court in West Baltimore, trying to assure residents they are working to suppress the surges in shootings and homicides while also repairing community relations.

They had gathered for the department's weekly Comstat meeting in a park in Sandtown-Winchester, the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, and just two blocks from the intersection of North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, ground zero when rioting broke out.

"We picked this location because this is what civil unrest looked like," said acting Maj. Sheree Briscoe, who oversees policing of the area. "We chose this location because it's the gateway to North Avenue."

The Comstat meeting is normally held at police headquarters downtown.

During the meeting — at which police pore over weekly crime data to spot trends and report on progress — commanders spotlighted crime in their neighborhoods as well as notable arrests.

They noted the arrest Wednesday of 14-year-old Raeshawn Rivers, who has been charged as an adult with murder in the strangling death Bowers, a Baltimore City College high school student.

Maj. Stanley Brandford, commander of the homicide unit, said Rivers was someone Bowers was "fond of" who helped orchestrate a robbery plot.

Police said Adonay Dixon and John Childs broke into Bowers' home in Northeast Baltimore with the intention of robbing it. They said Bowers was sexually assaulted and strangled.

Police said Dixon and Childs stole $40, an iPad and a laptop, and set Bowers' body and the home on fire.

Dixon and Childs have been charged with first­degree murder and other violations. Rivers faces charges of first­degree murder and 22 other criminal counts.

No attorney for Rivers is listed in court records and a representative or family member could not be found. Police did not elaborate on his alleged role, but said he was with Dixon, Childs and Bowers hours before she was killed.

"What happened is an absolute travesty," Brandford said. "It's absolutely evil what took place."

Brandford said police are moving to arrest a fourth suspect — but not someone involved directly in Bowers' death.

During the Comstat meeting, about 20 residents filtered onto the basketball court to hear police break down statistics. Total shootings are up 81 percent compared with last year.

Lt. Col. Sean Miller, who heads the department's special enforcement section, said the Poplar Grove Street corridor in the Southwestern District went quiet after a recent investigation busted up a drug crew, but warring gangs have reignited violence.

A Southeastern District commander said nonfatal shootings were up 86 percent, but the area had seen no shootings since May 18. Homicides in that precinct fell 17 percent.

Baltimore has experienced 136 homicides in 2015, 45 more than at this time last year, and 246 nonfatal shootings, 109 more than at this time last year.

As commanders ran through statistics, Batts shifted the focus of the meeting to the impacts of drugs and poverty on West Baltimore.

He asked Briscoe to name the problems confronting surrounding blocks. She said heroin, crack, scramble — heroin cut with quinine — and marijuana are all typically sold before 6 a.m.

Miller said the area receives the drug dealers that police push off North Avenue, and Briscoe listed the code enforcement and service requests she has made to the city to help clear away drug dens and hideouts.

She said police are making progress in West Baltimore, where homicides are up 110 percent and nonfatal shootings up 205 percent compared to last year.

"Satisfied? No. Comfortable? No," she said.

Batts called for long-term solutions to address the region's violence.

"What do we do differently here?" he asked. "What can we do that's deep-rooted? … How do we bring hope to a community and bring people to services?"

Commanders said they were working to better coordinate with city services so officers can direct people to help with jobs or treatment.

They showed fliers with contacts for services that officers are handing out, and spoke of movie nights and summer meal services for youth. They brought up the many requests they hear and don't have answers for, such as how to get records expunged so people won't be disqualified from jobs.

"We're the face of government," Lt. Col. David Reitz said.

City officials present at the meeting pledged their cooperation, and the meeting concluded with several officers speaking one-on-one with residents.

George Jolley, 81, who lives across the street from the park, said he found the meeting beneficial but said he's more interested in seeing police on patrol.

"I think something has to be done in this neighborhood," said Jolley, who was incarcerated 42 years for murder until his release last year. "I live in that building right there, and I hear shots around here at night."

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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