Above photo: Police push a man after chaos erupted near intersection of west North Ave. and Pennsylvania Ave on May 4, 2015 in Baltimore, Md., after police attempted to arrest a man carrying a gun. Initial reports from people near the scene suggested the man had been shot by police, police later confirmed that the man was not shot but the gun the man was carrying discharged when the officers were attempting to arrest him. (Jessica Koscielniak/McClatchy DC/TNS)
Baltimore, MD – The Baltimore neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester consumed the news cycle for a brief period in April 2015, when Freddie Gray, a black resident of the area, died in police custody.
His death put a spotlight on the police department’s relationship with the black residents of Baltimore, and the results of a survey released on March 8 show why the tension therein was bound to boil over.
According to a survey conducted by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development and the No Boundaries Coalition, which describes itself as a resident-led advocacy group based in west Baltimore, 453 out of 1,500 survey respondents in Sandtown-Winchester had experienced or witnessed “police misconduct.”
“Rather than describing a few bad officers, witnesses described a prevalence of police misconduct that shaped their perception of all police,” the group wrote in its findings.
Yet only 39 of those 453 people who had experienced police misconduct were willing to go on the record about it.
“I understand we need to speak up on the way the police treat the community,” one resident said in the report. “But certain things ain’t nobody going to talk about.”
The coalition found that police response to crime was not “applied fairly and consistently.” Residents said they were often stopped and searched even though they were not suspected of committing a crime, yet other obvious crimes were allowed to go on.
One resident in the report described watching an officer take money from a person dealing drugs, then telling the dealer that “my kids are going to have a good Christmas.”
The coalition’s conclusion is similar to the findings of other groups dedicated to police reform. They believe officers need training in anti-racism and community relations, and they want police to meet often with community leaders.
They also want residents to have a say in the police’s budget, practices and priorities.