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FOP report details sampling of firsthand officer accounts from riots

The union representing police officers in Baltimore released findings from its independent "after action review" of the police response to rioting in the city following the death of Freddie Gray. The 32-page review stated that officers claimed "that they lacked basic riot equipment, training, and, as events unfolded, direction from leadership," and that "the passive response ... allowed the disorder to grow into full scale rioting."

The report also included a dozen accounts from officers from the time of the unrest.

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'Don't engage'

- A command member, appointed by Commissioner Batts, reported being given orders from executive command members not to engage rioters, even while officers on the line were being assaulted with rocks and bottles.

- An officer reported: "I heard command staff on 11A — 'Looting expected, let it happen.' At CVS officers were told 'do not stop looters' and 'hold your position.' Police just watched the looting and destruction. I heard 'hold the line' and 'don't move forward' and was praised by the on-scene commander for enduring the attack with no response."

- An officer reported: "During the afternoon hours of April 25, 2015 while monitoring police radio, I heard command staff give orders over the radio that we were not to engage the rioters and not to do anything that might provoke an incident."

Arrests

- An officer deployed on April 25, 2015 reported being instructed to notify the command center to see if he could make an arrest.

- A sergeant reported working riot detail at E. Fayette and Gay St. on April 25, 2015. "… I was involved in an arrest for disorderly conduct. I took the arrestee behind the metal barricades and sat him on the bus stop bench. I was then approached by a command staff member who told me 'this is what we are going to do, we are going to un-handcuff him and let him go.' I replied, 'Sir, he is my arrest and he is not being released.'

Command replied, 'Sergeant, you were not at the meeting before, you did not get permission from the 9th floor to make an arrest.' I replied that I would not release the suspect as it was a legal arrest. At that time I was told I was 'relieved from here go to the atrium and stay there.' I then grabbed my riot helmet and went to the atrium. Approximately 5-10 minutes passed and I received a call from a lieutenant who told me to come back to the line. I informed him I was just relieved to which he replied the command member had 'made a phone call' and I should come back and charge the suspect appropriately, which I did."

Equipment and supplies

- An officer reported that a sergeant "dug into his own pocket to buy food for us" when none was provided for more than 18 hours.

- An officer reported that a member of the command staff eventually authorized pepper balls, but only at feet, which is "not training protocol."

- An officer reported an encounter with Commissioner Batts while going to pick up gear on April 27, 2015. The officer reported that Commissioner Batts addressed the officers picking up riot gear: "he said that he never knew that we were not issued any riot gear" and that "he said he had been through many of riots and knew Baltimore was going to have one soon" and "he said he had no idea that the city did not have any riot gear and that he ordered the best gear and money was no issue." This officer also indicated receiving only one minute of training on how to use the just-issued mask.

- An officer, while deployed at Mondawmin Mall, reported orders given for no helmets, even after being hit by rocks. Command was aware officers had no helmets and reportedly expressed concern about being outflanked. The officer reports an outside agency present with the group had gas but was told not to deploy.

- An officer reported: "On Saturday, April 25, 2105, I attended a roll call with Commissioner Batts and a member of his command staff. During that roll call, Commissioner Batts told us to take our gloves off and not wear sunglasses because it looks intimidating. He further stated that we were not ready or prepared for what was about to happen. We were told to not wear our helmets until the on-scene supervisor told us to put them on. We were told our job was to deescalate. Command staff told us that we were not allowed to make an arrest unless it was approved by the legal team in unified command."

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- An officer reported that, while trying to disperse a crowd throwing rocks and bottles, Commissioner Batts walked up and "told us to ring our sticks; we looked aggressive on national television." This officer reported Commissioner Batts was not in uniform at the time.

Western District

-An officer reported not being allowed to leave the Western District to help tired officers on the front line: "I asked to have the officers come to Western District and let us go out."

- An officer on the front line at the Western District on April 25, 2015 reported being told to repeatedly move forward then pull back. "No commander knew how to run the scene."

Outside agencies

- Officers from other agencies confirmed that Baltimore Police Department command staff told officers in Baltimore City FOP Lodge #3's offices that they should allow rioters to "flip and burn cars and to not take action against property crimes, only if death or personal injury occurs."

Batts involved in 'five riots'

- An officer reported: "During this roll call we were advised by Commissioner Batts that we were not ready for what is about to happen. He stated that he has been involved in five full-scale riots and knows firsthand. We were then advised to give space to the protestors and not follow as we had done in prior events. He then stated that we were not to act until they began to loot and burn property in this city. We were told not to wear black gloves and/or sunglasses during any of these events."

- An officer reported: "On the evening of April 27, 2015, I was one of the officers deployed to the Mondawmin Mall area in reference to the civil unrest/looting that was taking place. We were basically marched out in the street and lined up in front of the increasingly angry mob of people. The manner in which we were lined up left us exposed and out flanked and this basically continued for an extended period of time. We were just pulled back and forth by supervisors yelling to form lines in random patterns and places with no real purpose. On one instance, a member of upper command was making an arrest. The crowd began to move forward to disrupt the process at which time the upper command staff officer retrieved mace and deployed some, not only spraying the crowd but spraying officers down wind, myself included. I began to tear and violently cough. After this incident, we formed another line in the street and at this point, I believed that we were now going to do something to try and control or disperse the crowd. This is when the crowd began to throw rocks, bricks and chunks of concrete. At first, there were just a few objects being thrown. But when the crowd realized that we were not moving forward and not engaging them, they began to throw more and more objects/rocks, all getting bigger in size. I had never in my 14-year career been as afraid as I was at that moment. I was struck with a piece of concrete that I did not see coming. The blow buckled me to my knees. I can recall Commissioner Batts addressing the officers at headquarters prior to going out on the street. He pretty much patted himself on the back making statements like. 'I have been in five riots and I will assure you that this is the real deal.' With a potential riot looming, command staff was more concerned with officers not wearing black gloves and looking intimidating. With all this 'experience' and beforehand knowledge at Commissioner Batts' disposal, he still led us officers to slaughter. We were 31 ill equipped, overwhelmed and sent out with no less lethal crowd control weapons or real secondary plan. We were given the order to stand down, yet we could not retreat or defend ourselves. It wasn't until after all of the officers were injured that we received riot equipment."

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