Police officers from neighboring jurisdictions have begun staging in Baltimore in preparation for unrest that local commanders hope never materializes.
On Tuesday afternoon, Anne Arundel County Police officers were photographed staging in Druid Hill Park with an armored vehicle, helmets and shields by local photographer Devin Allen, who was made famous after one of his images from April's unrest landed on the cover of Time magazine. Allen posted his images on Twitter, where he has about 12,500 followers — including many journalists. A Baltimore Sun reporter who responded to the park also observed dozens of officers and protective gear, though the officers were no longer wearing the gear.
T.J. Smith, the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokesman, confirmed the presence of outside law enforcement personnel in the city but said the images were "not the visual that we want to portray."
"Our goal is to try to keep our assisting agencies out of sight, out of mind, away from general public view as best we can," he said. "It isn't anything where we want to raise anxieties."
Smith said there is "no reason for the equipment to be donned at this point."
Smith said he could not say how many outside agencies are in the city, or provide other "tactical" information as to their deployments, but said "these assisting agencies and that equipment is only used if absolutely necessary. It's not part of normal police response to things."
The outside agencies are staging in the city as part of preparations ahead of the verdict in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter in Gray's death. Gray, 25, died on April 19 after suffering severe neck injuries in the back of a police transport van. His death sparked widespread protests against police brutality, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed charges against six officers, including Porter, on May 1.
Prosecutors and Porter's attorneys gave closing arguments in his trial on Monday, and a 12-member jury is now deliberating over whether he is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
During the unrest in April, law enforcement agencies from around the region and the National Guard were called in to assist the Baltimore Police Department after rioting, looting and arson spiraled out of control.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis also declined at an afternoon news conference to say how many outside officers are preparing in the city.
"We have a number of law enforcement agencies from across the state that are assisting us today," he said. "They are here out of an abundance of caution. I hope to never have to call upon them."
"We are prepared because the community, quite frankly, expects us to be prepared," he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, has since complained that officers were put in dangerous situations without proper protective gear, and the police department has spent millions on new gear. Some activists have also derided the department's use of such gear during the unrest, including at Mondawmin Mall — where confrontations on the day of the rioting first began after police with protective gear staged around a high school and buses used by students to leave the area were canceled.
Smith said "every citizen of Baltimore probably has an expectation for us to be prepared for any scenario," and that's why the support of the outside agencies has been called in ahead of the verdict in Porter's trial.
City police officials hope the outside officers will be sent home "having sat around for a few days" with nothing to do, Smith said, but the city must be prepared.
As for why the Anne Arundel officers in Druid Hill Park appeared fully clad in protective gear on Tuesday afternoon, Smith said they may have just been bored and wanted to try it on.
"We certainly don't want that visual to look like we're expecting something," he said, "because we aren't."
Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Meehan contributed to this story.