Officers are abandoning the Baltimore police force in droves, and not many are applying to take their place, even as the city has descended into chaos in the year since Freddie Gray’s death.
At the beginning of 2015, according to Reuters, Baltimore had 2,805 officers on its police force, overseeing a high-crime city of about 620,000 people. By the end of the year, though, the force had shrunk to 2,634 officers, a drop of 6.1 percent. That decline has only accelerated in 2016, with the force dropping to just 2,445 in June, a fall of 6.8 percent from January.
Baltimore’s criminal elements have hardly been accommodating to the shorthanded force. Murders surged a staggering 63 percent in 2015, with 344 people killed. The city’s pace is somewhat slower this year, but still well above what it was just a few years ago.
Like many large cities, Baltimore has been grappling with severe budgetary issues, which can explain some of the decline. But it’s impossible to ignore the influence of Freedie Gray’s death. The scandal resulted in six Baltimore police going on trial (though none have been convicted thus far), commissioner Anthony Batts’ termination, large-scale rioting, and a wave of anti-police sentiment not only in the city but across the country. (RELATED: Baltimore Cops Sue Marilyn Mosby For Defamation)
Gene Ryan, the president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, told Reuters Gray’s death had been a “morale killer” for Baltimore cops. He said many officers are defecting to the police departments of nearby cities, including Washington, D.C. The lack of personnel, he said, was forcing many specialty agents to fulfill routine roles like responding to emergency call.
Ryan has been bemoaning the department’s decline for several months. In April, he told The Baltimore Sun the force was “walking on eggshells,” and suggested new police commissioner Kevin Davis was bowing too much to political pressure in an effort to keep his job.
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