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by Peter Moskos

December 6, 2015

Dying in Baltimore? Blame the Police.

I saw a Tweet about something I already knew, and it still shocked me.

This year 1 in every 2,000 Baltimoreans will be murdered.

I know this number is true. I've done math. But I still needed to double check. And in many ways it's even worse. Because we know most people in Baltimore aren't going to get murdered. 86 percent of those killed in Baltimore are black men. Collectively, you can group together all whites, all black women, all hispanics, and all asians. Together they account for just 11 percent of Baltimore homicide victims. (Race is unknown 3 percent of time.)

Lethal violence doubled after riots.

I still want an apology from those idiots who went on national radio and TV with me saying police were the main problem and violence wasn't even up in Baltimore the riots (they used, "uprising"). Bet I'm not going to get one. I don't know if anybody still claims that, but nobody ever admitted they were wrong.

I spend my Saturday night playing with Excel and SPSS. I made three charts that all say the same thing in slightly different ways. I'm not certain which one is the best. Here they all are.

There are about 180,000 black men in Baltimore. To date 273 have been murdered. Yes. This year, one in every 660 black men in Baltimore has been murdered.

[Update: 304 black men were killed in Baltimore in 2015. One in every 600 black men was murdered in 2015.]

And it gets worse. There are only about 45,000 18- to 35-year-old black men in Baltimore. By year's end, more than 200 will have been killed and another 500 will be shot but live. 45,000 divided by 700 is 64. One in 64 black men 18 to 35 will be shot or killed. One in 225 will be murdered. One year. Think of those odds. Officer William Porter, a black guy from Baltimore who survived those odds, he was working to save lives. He was trying to make his city a safer place. Now Portor is on trial for basically doing his job. Who are the only people who see every bloody crime scene? Who do we send in to deal with this literal and figurative bloody mess? Police officers. "Do something!" we order them.

And the mayor and State's Attorney? They're using their precious resources to lock up the same exact cops they told to "do something" about the drug corner Freddie Gray was on when he ran from police. And poor Freddie Gray? The lead-poisoned drug-addicted barely-literate low-level habitual criminal? He's a victim, too. But he's not a hero. They've name a "Youth Empowerment Centers" after him? If you can't find a better role model for black youth in Baltimore, you're not looking hard enough.

Maybe if we can keep the focus on the police, nobody will ever get around to noticing the who real is to blame. No need to blame Freddie's mom, the drugs, lead paint, the schools, the city, the neighborhood, the corrupt politicians, the self-serving religious leaders, the violence, the racism, the criminals, the blight, the lack of jobs, or even Freddie himself. Nope. None of them's on trial. Only the PO-leece.



Unknown said...

I like your first chart best. The charts are very convincing that there was something that caused crime to go up after the riots. The real question is what is that something.

bacchys said...

Do you think this would have happened if those cops hadn't caused Gray's death?

Moskos said...

It happened because of the riot, which was not an inevitable result of the Gray's death or even the resultant (peaceful) protests.

And Gray wouldn't have died if Mosby hadn't told cops to give special attention to the corner of North and Mount.

So it depends how far back you want to go. No, it would not have happened if Gray hadn't died. But no, there was nothing inevitable about this ever after Gray's death.

bacchys said...

I agree,the riots weren't inevitable. They likely wouldn't have happened even after Gray's death had the Baltimore Police decided to not funnel the high schools to Mondawmin and shut down public transit there. Nothing helps a group of would-be anarchists like giving them a big crowd, after all.

It seems everyone in this drama is to blame except those folks whose job it was to serve and protect the community. Oh, and not kill Freddie Gray.

Concerned citizen said...

So many arrestees cry "I'm injured!" that police officers become skeptical.

Per usual, the rear echelon is second-guessing the men in the front lines.

Moskos said...

Clearly, Freddie Gray needed better or more prompt medical care. Certainly being buckled in might have saved his life.
Of course you don't refuse medical care (medical abandonment is a crime), but you can certainly talk to people and explain reality. And then ask if they still really want to go to the hospital. Of those who initially said they wanted to go Hopkins, I probably talked 50 percent out of it.

It is indeed in informal but necessary part of the system without which the formal system couldn't operate. If cops immediately took every person to the hospital who said, "I don't feel good" or "I'm injured" or "I want a doctor" (once I had a specific for a "Jew doctor" -- or was it a "Jew lawyer"?) -- if everybody was taken to the hospital without question, people would blame the cops for an intentional work slowdown.

And why isn't there a doctor at CBIF intake? One friggin doctor there would keep so many cops from spending hours in the ER.

bacchys said...

This is a republic. Police are the agents of the people, because in a republic the people are sovereign. You're damned right the "rear echelon" types are second-guessing them. We not only have a right to, we have the authority.

If you don't like being second-guessed by the people stay out of public service.

Moskos said...

You could say police are those encumbered with what is duty of every citizen (Peel said something like that). So second-guess away, but it's also worth asking what exactly you would have done differently.

john mosby said...

Prof, I don't quite understand why you so vigorously defend the balmer 6 while you remain at best agnostic on the McDonald shoot.

The balmer 6 had a completely nonviolent offender under their complete control and he ended up dead, after a long, slow chain of decisions.

The McDonald copper had an armed unpredictable offender under no control and made a split second decision.

What exactly is the difference in the situations that causes the difference in your attitudes?

Is it just that you set a high bar for use of deadly force, versus navigating the countless mundane decisions that led to gray's death?

Is it that you have firsthand experience of life as a Baltimore cop and so you can put yourself in the 6's shoes more readily than the Chicago PO's?

Very serious questions, not shark.


john mosby said...

That should be snark, not shark. Daggone autocomplete. Altho shark is also descriptive of poor internet etiquette as well....

Moskos said...

I think that is exactly why I see such a difference between the two: "you set a high bar for use of deadly force, versus navigating the countless mundane decisions that led to gray's death?"

But also a dose of this, too: "Is it that you have firsthand experience of life as a Baltimore cop and so you can put yourself in the 6's shoes more readily than the Chicago PO's?"

But it's more than that. I can tell you that were I on the job, I might be on criminal trial in Baltimore. And I think most cops feel that way. Yes, there but for the grace of God, go I. The only thing I *might* have done different is that *had* I been the wagon driver, I *might* have buckled up Gray. Maybe. I don't know. I never was a wagon driver.

Had I been in Chicago, there's no way in hell I would have shot McDonald at that time. Nor would any other reasonable cop.

bacchys said...

Other "reasonable cops" were helping him cover it up.

I've a pretty good idea what I would have done in their shoes- my time in the Army (over 27 years) has given me experiences that support that. I would have done what was necessary to get him safely and securely to the jail, and if he was injured- or said he was injured- called for medical attention or taken him to the hospital.

Rough rides were around when you were a B-more cop. They were around when Dondi Johnson was killed, but those cops weren't charged. They were around when 17 different people filed a lawsuit over them and the department starting pushing seat belts and doing audits *years* before Gray was killed.

Gray isn't the first person killed by Baltimore police thus way. He's probably not going to be the last.

Anonymous said...

Bacchys, do you have any evidence of a rough ride here at all? You've brought it up like fifty times but I've seen nothing from the ME's report to suggest it and no injuries to the other prisoner in the van. And to my knowledge Mosby's team isn't alleging it either.

Moskos said...

Or from my experience.

I didn't even know the term "rough ride" until after Freddie Gray's death.

Do I think it happened sometimes? Sure. You'd have to be a fool to think it never happened. And sometimes people were dropped off far from home and told to walk home. Did it happen? Yes. But frequent? Regular? A routine part of BPD culture? No. Is a "rough ride" something a van driver would have done for me to my prisoner. No. (though I never asked)

Do I think it intentionally happened here? No.

Police culture says don't fuck with a prisoner in cuffs. And if you do want to mess with a prisoner, you gotta mess up your prisoner. You can't tell somebody else to do your dirty work!

Did a cop occasionally land one more punch than some may think necessary when trying to get a fighting guy in cuffs. Sure. But who can say for sure it wasn't necessary? Once the cuffs were on, it was over. (Though I did once see a woman come punch a prisoner in cuffs. Walked right between 5 cops to do so. It was pretty impressive, come to think of it.)

Of course I could be wrong, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

bacchys said...

"Bacchys, do you have any evidence of a rough ride here at all?"

Freddie Gray's broken neck.

Moskos said...

If a man is shackled hands and feet in a hard-edged no-padded bouncy-ass van, you don't need a "rough ride" to get hurt.

Keep in mind there is evidence saying the ride wasn't anything out of the ordinary. There was at least one other prisoner in the van.