Failed Consent Decree to Blame for City’s High Murder Rate

Failed consent decree to blame for city’s high murder rate

Baltimore Sun, August 29, 2022

Cities that have toyed with consent decrees like Baltimore have higher homicide rates since two of their principal effects are to discourage police recruitment and prevent proactive policing (“Baltimore police reform remains essential to any hope of crime reduction,” Aug. 22). Competent police commissioners enjoying political support can reform police; insulated federal judges cannot.
The victims of the enhanced numbers of homicides are the forgotten casualties which damage Baltimore’s efforts to attract new residents, employers and visitors. Homicide statistics are the most trustworthy and the most visible crime statistics. One can grant the good intentions of federal judges. There is reason to resent “stop and frisk” policing, being pulled over for “driving while black,” and past excesses of the drug war — including time spent in pre-trial detention and extraordinarily long sentences.
But seven years after the exaggerated Freddie Gray affair, it is time to take stock of where the consent decree and less visible policing has gotten us.
The Baltimore consent decree effectively suspends the operation of large swaths of the criminal code including provisions relating to such matters as loitering, public urination and public defecation by requiring approval of a superior officer and elaborate reporting. It denies the police the benefit of the Supreme Court decision in Illinois v. Wardlaw holding that flight is grounds for reasonable suspicion. This goes far beyond any constitutional requirement.
The claims by The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board and Judge James K. Bredar that the decree is only about “constitutional policing” are, put simply, untrue. The Sun has never printed the portions dealing with “quality of life” offenses and I would challenge you to do so. The former officials who wrote the collusive decree undertook to ban policing practices which had produced a nearly 80% reduction in the homicide rate in New York City.
The purpose of stop-and-frisk policing was to keep weapons off the streets. It has recently been re-introduced in London. The effect of sweeping restrictions on it and on enforcement of “broken window” offenses has been to cede inner-city street corners to drug dealers and to facilitate the revenge killings with which they enforce their contracts.
It is past time for Judge Bredar, federal officials and Mayor Brandon Scott to seek reconsideration of the decree, or at least its more intrusive provisions.
— George Liebmann, Baltimore The writer is president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar and author of “Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks at Four Failed Administrations.”

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