Baltimore’s police union leaders continue to accuse police department and city leadership of “complete ineffectiveness” in their approach to crime as the city closes its second-deadliest year on record.
The union leadership’s comments come a day after Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young held a news conference at City Hall where they discussed recent and future efforts to address the city relentless violence as the city reached 344 homicides. Overnight, police said three more men were killed and a fourth was injured in a shooting in North Baltimore. A fifth man was injured in a shooting about an hour later in South Baltimore.
In response, Harrison said in a statement: “I remain focused on providing the leadership that the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department and the residents of Baltimore need and deserve.”
With 347 homicides as of Tuesday morning, the city is just six away from the all-time record of 353 homicides in 1993. It has already passed the mark for the deadliest year per capita.
The comments are the union’s latest criticism of Harrison, who was brought to Baltimore from the New Orleans Department largely because of his success in overseeing consent decree reforms there. Baltimore has been under a federal consent decree since April 2017 and must complete numerous policing reforms to meet compliance.
Harrison and Young pledged on Monday efforts recently put in place would cause a reduction in violence, including increased coordination with state and federal law enforcement, a focus on data-driven policing and clearing more cases to get those committing the violence off the street.
But the union complained Tuesday that those efforts are not enough and are doing nothing now to address the violence.
“Yesterday’s Mayoral press conference is just another example of how out of touch this administration has become. This is not the first year we have had over 300 homicides,” the union leaders wrote.
Harrison noted the department has recently transferred 12 detectives to homicide to help the clearance rate, which is just 32%, lower than previous years for the department and the national average for cities of a similar size.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Sgt. Mike Mancuso said in a separate statement that the clearance rate has dropped because the use of criminal informants has “dropped drastically.”
Mancuso said fewer informants are used because prosecutors are charging fewer misdemeanor and some drug-related felonies, which have been used as leverage in larger cases.
The change has “caused the criminals not to have to seek assistance in regard to their cases,” Mancuso said. “These individuals are the ones in the street that see these shootings and murders take place. Now there is no need for them to make a ‘deal’ and assist with closing some of these murders and other violent crimes.”
Informants provide “invaluable information that is no longer accessible to investigators in many cases. This has had a direct impact on the clearance rate in many violent cases,” he said.
The union leaders also bemoaned the decline in the department’s ranks.
“Our patrol ranks remain hundreds of officers short and our detectives are handling caseloads that would make law enforcement experts gasp if they knew the volume,” they said.
The city and police department have launched an aggressive marketing campaign to attract new officers. Harrison said previously the department has seen a sustained spike in applications but those candidates have not yet gone through the hiring process, and it’s unclear whether the campaign will bring new, qualified officers.