The Baltimore police department blames inadequate leadership and equipment for its shortcomings in the riots that took place in the city earlier this year.
In the wake of the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody, widespread anger fueled riots that resulted in destruction across many areas of Baltimore.
The police department said that important details, such as the roles and responsibilities of its officials, were unknown by many. The Wall Street Journal reports that many officers and commanders were not even familiar with what the city’s plans were for a major riot situation.
After an independent review of the Baltimore police department was conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum following the unrest in April, serious problems were identified. The review found that officers were insufficiently trained and equipped, critical information was communicated poorly among the department, and the command structure during the event was described as “chaotic” and “disorganized”.
According to the review, some officers were unfamiliar with certain terminology such as “hold the line”. Other officers thought “stand by” meant the same thing as “stand down”.
The review, which was published Monday, paints a picture of Baltimore’s guardians as ill-prepared, but have things made any change for the better since?
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that the city has set a goal so that nothing similar happens within Baltimore again.
It is our goal that something like that never happens again.
“It is our goal to maintain safety and order, to protect the public and protect the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department”, she said.
The mayor and the police commissioner said that the Baltimore police department has learned lessons from the riots, and that the city is much more prepared to handle situations like that in the future.
City Councilman Carl Stokes didn’t exude the same confidence, saying that he wouldn’t feel comfortable putting the changes to the test.
I know I wouldn’t want to put us to the test, because I’m afraid at how strong the failure may be. I’m concerned about where we are right now.
Police commissioner Kevin Davis said that not only is the city’s police better trained, they now have experience dealing with large scale rioting, looting and arson. Davis said that prior to this year, the last major riot to take place occurred in 1968. “We didn’t have those experiences under our belt”, he said. “We do now.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore police department has spent almost $2 million in officer training and new equipment. Davis said that efforts were made to reduce the impact “bureaucracy” had on the response time to the riots, including pre-emptive agreements with surrounding jurisdictions, and more comprehensible policies for the officers. The city also plans on empowering certain police officers to act as street commanders during times of crisis, a decision that they believe will speed up decision making times.
The city expects demonstrators to appear at the courthouses during the upcoming trials of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray.