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President Trump cites Baltimore’s homicide clearance rate in speech on police reform

President Donald Trump on Tuesday mentioned unaddressed crime in Baltimore as he touted an executive order to address police reform.

“In many cases, local law enforcement is underfunded, understaffed and undersupported,” Trump said, speaking from the Rose Garden. “Forty-seven percent of all murders in Chicago and 68% of all murders in Baltimore went without arrests last year. Americans want law and order. They demand law and order.”

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In 2019, Baltimore had 348 homicides with a 32.1% clearance rate, one of its lowest rates in three decades. The Baltimore Police Department defines clearance as a measure of arrests, suspects dying before trial and other factors.

The national homicide clearance rate is nearly twice as high, and cities with a population of more than 500,000 had a clearance rate of 57%, according to FBI data obtained in 2019.

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The Baltimore City Council on Monday cut about $23 million in funding from the police department’s $550 million budget, but outgoing Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young stymied a deal from City Council President and Democratic nominee Brandon Scott to redirect the money to public services.

The executive order Trump signed incentivizes local police departments to adopt best practices, including a ban on chokeholds except for instances in which an officer’s life is in danger. The order would also establish a federal database to track officers with a history of excessive-use-of-force complaints.

Baltimore has been under a consent decree since 2017, a court-enforceable agreement to resolve the Department of Justice’s findings that it believed the police department had engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th amendments, and certain provisions of federal statutory law.

The investigation stemmed from the 2015 unrest after Freddie Gray died from injuries suffered in police custody. The decree requires the police department to implement several measures, including increased training for deescalation tactics, and greater investment in technology and equipment. The police department in November 2019 introduced a new use-of-force policy that forbids chokeholds.

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