Baltimore Police commissioner affirms rules on "stop and frisk"

Baltimore Police commissioner affirms rules on "stop and frisk"
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts speaks in this Baltimore Sun file photo. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore police officers will be retrained on when to use the controversial "stop-and-frisk" tactic, Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said Thursday, after a civil liberties group criticized the department's decision to change the name of the tactic.

"I want our officers to know we don't just randomly stop people without cause, without a reason," Batts told reporters in Northeast Baltimore, where he said he and his aides recently performed a stop-and-frisk on a suspected gang hit man and explained to him why they were doing it.


When officers simply jump out of their cars and pat people down, Batts said, "that's unacceptable."

State law and the department's general orders require officers to have reasonable suspicion that the subject is armed and "presently dangerous" before conducting a search for a weapon.

The law also requires police to submit reports on every stop-and-frisk to the state police.

State police say the 3,000-strong city police force reported making 422 such stops between August 2012 and July 2013.

The Baltimore Sun reported this week that police would no longer refer to the tactic as "stop-and-frisk."

They'll now be called "investigative stops."

Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez told The Sun that a national controversy over the New York Police Department's use of the practice had given "stop-and-frisk" a negative connotation from which police must distance themselves.

Rodriguez said Baltimore police used the tactic differently and more appropriately than New York, but said officers haven't always classified the stop correctly.

The Maryland ACLU, which has asked city police for data related to such stops, said Wednesday that the name change alone was not sufficient.

"Whether we call it 'stop and frisk' or something else makes no difference to the Baltimore residents stopped and searched without any reasonable suspicion that they have done something wrong," said Sonia Kumar, a staff attorney with the Maryland ACLU.

"We need the commissioner to enforce the policies already on the books that require officers to document their use of stop-and-frisk and that require supervisory review to ensure that officers are complying with the law."

After Batts saw the article, he said Thursday, he contacted Rodriguez to make sure the department was going further than a name change.

He said he was told that a broader review was taking place.

Batts said he was in Northeast Baltimore's Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood, where 27-year-old Kevin Everette was shot Tuesday, and saw a man who had been identified by a confidential informant as a hit man for the Black Guerrilla Family.


"What we explained to him was that we had information that he was a hit man or enforcer, and that I wanted him to know that I knew he was a hit man or enforcer, and as I was talking to him we patted him down for weapons by explaining what was going on," Batts said.

Jack Papp, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said police filled out an investigative stop form after the interaction.

The department's record-keeping has been questioned in the past. Police reported only 11 such stops in 12 months in 2005, as internal figures showed the number was in the thousands. One estimate indicated there had been as many as 130,000 over the course of nine months.

In 2010, city police statistics show officers conducted 234 stop-and-frisk stops, 207 in 2011, and 249 in 2012 through August 2012. Batts said he was unaware of the numbers and would research it.