An independent review of the Baltimore Police Department’s response to riots in April, conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), states that officers weren’t prepared and properly trained to handle the situation.
Riots and protests took place in the city, were people responded to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man that suffered fatal injuries in his spinal cord while he was on police’s custody.
‘Lessons Learned from the 2015 Civil Unrest in Baltimore’
According to the report, some of the department’s errors and missteps included inadequate planning, sudden shifts in command roles, and unclear arrest policies that, altogether, confused and misguided police officers. Also, it was reported that shields and helmets used by the police officers during the riots cracked very easily.
The PERF report claims that most of the U.S. cities have no experience in large-scale riots and protests, as there is a tendency on planning and concerning about more immediate issues such as crime. Also, they warn that the Baltimore Police Department’s performance shows the need of all these agencies to be prepared for all types of incidents.
Baltimore’s police department, such as any other department that receives federal funding, is required to follow the guidelines of the National Incident Management System, an emergency-response procedure made by the Department of Homeland Security. This procedure is meant to guide law officers when dealing with situations such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters, according to the report.
Nevertheless, it seems that the Baltimore police didn’t follow these practices, as they instead followed their own version of a response plan -a plan they were using since 2013, adapting it to all situations.
“The plan lacked specific detail in several areas that are crucial for involved personnel to understand during an incident, such as the assignment of roles and responsibilities,” the report says.
The report adds that the plan didn’t consider the possibility that these incidents lasted more than a couple of days, and that most of Baltimore police officers weren’t familiar to this operational plan.
An early report, released in July by the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, revealed similar findings, so these weren’t taken with surprise. Inadequate training, bad instructions and general confusion were also found by the police union.
Official response from Baltimore’s authorities
According to The Baltimore Sun, the BPD is now better prepared than they were before to handle these type of situations, as they believe they have learned the lesson from these riots, the mayor and police commissioner said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stated their goal is that these situations never take place again. She adds that it is their duty to provide safety and order, and protecting the people of Baltimore, as well to protect their law enforcement departments.
Nevertheless, the City Councilman Carl stokes stated with skepticism that he doesn’t want the city being tested again, as he believes that it would result in failure one more time. Also, he expressed his concerns on the state of the city at this time.
Commissioner Kevin Davis, who replaced the former Commissioner Anthony Batts – who, in fact, requested the report that costed $23,500 -announced that changes have already been made. He believes that the April experiences have prepared them to further incidents.
“It had been since 1968 since our city had experienced a riot, and it is not only a training and equipment deficiency that we’ve since addressed. We didn’t have those experiences under our belt,” Davis said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “We do now.”
However, the range on this problems goes beyond the city of Baltimore. Last June, it was reported that police actions in Ferguson, Missouri -such as training sniper rifles on peaceful protesters in broad daylight- caused additional unrest, following Michael Brown’s death in August 2014.
Source: The Baltimore Sun