Baltimore, MD – City officials announced a proposal on Thursday that would bring 100 federal officers from various agencies to Baltimore to help local officers patrol the streets of the crime-plagued city.
The plan was announced at the quarterly consent decree meeting in federal court on July 22, WBAL reported.
The Baltimore Police Department has been under the consent decree since 2017 after an investigation following the death of Freddie Gray in the custody of Baltimore police revealed multiple civil rights violations among the police department’s practices.
City officials told the court that the city was down 392 officers and 14 detectives from where it needed to be, WBAL reported.
The proposed initiative called for 100 federal agents – mostly from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) – to help Baltimore police officers in a myriad of ways, WBAL reported.
“The ask is for federal agents to come help us,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison explained. “Certainly, police officers will answer citizens’ calls for service. But I think what the bigger picture meant is federal agents will be on the streets of Baltimore. Not specifically patrolling, but on the streets helping, working side by side with police officers to help fight violent crime.”
The proposal was made in a desperate effort to stretch police department resources, WBAL reported.
Federal officials have not yet responded to the police department’s request for help.
Court testimony revealed that the Baltimore Police Department has 600 vacancies, which included the 392 patrol officers and 14 detectives referenced above.
The police department has found staffing to be its greatest challenge to compliance with the federal consent decree, WBAL reported.
In recent years, the department has used funds that would have gone to those vacant positions to cover shortfalls in overtime funding.
Baltimore police have also struggled to put newly-purchased technology to work in the city, another element of the consent decree, WBAL reported.
And the worldwide computer chip shortage has kept new high-tech patrol cars from being delivered to the department from their manufacturers.
Judge James Bredar questioned why so many people were being arrested and then released without charges, WBAL reported.
Officials testified that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s policy to not prosecute certain low-level offenses had caused a lot of confusion and said that only about a third of the police force had been trained on the prosecutor’s new policy.
Bredar pointed out that the federal consent decree didn’t tell Baltimore police to ignore quality of life offenses and asked whether law enforcement and the state’s attorney’s office were pursuing different agendas, WBAL reported.
Commissioner Harrison said the department meets weekly with Mosby’s office to discuss why certain cases were not prosecuted.
Many are skeptical that the federal consent decree has done anything to improve things in Baltimore, WBAL reported.
Maryland State Senator Jill Carter, a defense attorney, said that she’s heard from constituents and clients that not much has changed as far as police interactions with the community were concerned.
“They are just dotting T’s and crossing I’s,” Carter said. “I don’t think real reform is happening. It’s too slow and I think people are beginning to question the efficacy of doing this.”