Many communities of color and poor communities across the nation have been under siege in their own neighborhoods and homes for generations because of seemingly ubiquitous crime. And many have also felt besieged by brutality and misconduct at the hands of some of the law enforcement officers sworn to protect and serve them.
After the murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge last month, many members of law enforcement across the nation have adopted that siege mentality, perhaps understandably. It is an all too familiar feeling for many of the men and women of the Baltimore City Police Department since the days of last April’s uprising and the subsequent indictments of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
“Morale is such a real thing, but it’s sometimes difficult to measure. And it’s person by person and sometimes it’s day by day. But, I do know post unrest, a historic event, with what happened last year and that gave cops a lot of anxieties and that affected our morale,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, during an interview Monday, August 1 on “First Edition.” Davis spoke at length about the current state of the BCPD rank and file and the effect of morale on their performance.
“Going through the trials of the police officers also affected the morale of the police officers…it was a real impact on morale. As we also contend with these national events going on, whether there are cops being shot and killed in Dallas or Baton Rouge, or whether its controversy surrounding questionable police involved shootings,” Davis added. “Those all affect morale and they get you to question your chosen profession. Is this for me? Do I still want to be a cop? Is this my calling? And I just think that we are in a better place with morale and I also know that morale is sometimes a house of cards. One critical incident can impact the morale of an organization like this overnight. So, it’s something I pay attention to,” Davis concluded.
Despite the seemingly poisonous air that sustains (or chokes) the tenuous (but essential) relationship between the Baltimore City Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office, Davis suggested the professional relationship between he and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is not a perilous one.
“My relationship with Marilyn Mosby is a necessary relationship. She and I speak several times a week about matters that never make their way to the Baltimore Sun or the six o’clock news,” Davis said. “It’s the business of the police commissioner and the state’s attorney. And the relationship that exists between detectives and assistant state’s attorneys is a strong relationship and it has to be a strong relationship. There are moments in time…where there will be a division of opinions and there will be a moment where we may agree to disagree on some things, but ultimately we never let that impact our commitment to the community,” Davis added.
University of Maryland Law Professor Doug Colbert has been a frequent contributor to “First Edition,” as we’ve reported on the trials of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Colbert argues that from the law enforcement reform perspective, despite the outcomes of the trials, they have shed light on policing in poor communities, providing vital insight and information as we go forward in the struggle for meaningful law enforcement reform. Davis said the dialogue is taking place in Baltimore and most big cities across the nation.
“The crime fight is really won…when police officers engage in Constitutional policing in between those responses to 911 calls. Where we chose to spend our time, who we chose to speak to? What stop, question and frisk scenarios we chose to get involved in based on reasonable suspicion and probable cause?,” Davis said. “I know that a police department with less anxieties and a healthy dose of morale, are more likely to be involved in the very active crime fight that ultimately makes our community safer.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.