Baltimore Police Chief Thrown Under the Bus

Having followed events in Baltimore closely, we are remiss in not having noted the firing of Baltimore’s police chief, Anthony Batts, by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The firing follows an alarming increase in crime after the riots in Baltimore and district attorney Marilyn Mosby’s indictment of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Batts’s firing comes at a time of increasing tensions between the police union and department leadership — and a sharp rise in crime. In the weeks since May 1, when six officers were charged in Mr. Gray’s death, murders have risen to a level not seen in decades. There have been 155 homicides this year, 50 more than in the same period last year, and nonfatal shootings have nearly doubled, the police said. Almost half of the killings occurred after May 1.

The police union has just released a report on the riots that is critical of the department’s leadership:

In an “after-action review” of the response to the riots released Wednesday, the city’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said its members reported that they “lacked basic riot equipment, training and, as events unfolded, direction from leadership.” The report also complained that “the passive response to the civil unrest had allowed the disorder to grow into full-scale rioting,” and that officers had followed direct orders from their commanders “not to intervene or engage the rioters.”

The Times scrupulously refrains from connecting the dots, but it was the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who famously said, as the riots were in progress:

It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate.

This was reasonably seen as a green light to commit mayhem. One hundred fifty Baltimore police officers were injured in the riots, and the police, perceiving that they were getting no support from the city’s administration–especially after officers were indicted for murder and other felonies in connection with Freddie Gray’s death–have backed off ever since, policing passively rather than proactively. Hence the sharp increase in shootings, murders and other crimes.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake not only seemed to give rioters the go-ahead, she responded with pathos when asked by a reporter asked whether Baltimore’s crime wave is related to more passive policing. Her leadership of the city has been weak when it has not actively undermined law and order. So in firing police chief Batts, in whom she has, until now, expressed complete confidence, she was throwing him under the bus. Baltimore is a sick city, but the sickness does not originate in its police department.

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