Tomorrow marks the first hearing in the case of the six Baltimore police officers currently charged in relation to the death of Freddie Gray. The judge will hear motions to dismiss, as well as to have State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recused. While strictly a procedural formality at this stage, the possibility still exists that activists will seize the occasion as an opportunity to take it to the streets once again. In response, we may be seeing the beginnings of a glimmer of common sense (or at least an instinct for self preservation) out of City Hall. They have cancelled all leave for the cops tomorrow as a precautionary measure.
The Baltimore Police Department has canceled leave for officers on Wednesday and on Sept. 10, when hearings are scheduled in the case against six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, police said.
Canceling leave ensures the department has a maximum number of officers working or on call “in case there are any issues we need to respond to,” said T.J. Smith, the department’s chief spokesman.
The decision was made last week “out of an abundance of caution, just so we’re not caught flat-footed in case there is a need,” Smith said.
How this is handled may prove to be the next big test for both Mosby and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. They are facing an urban population which is still on a knife’s edge in terms of unrest and distrust of both the police and the city government. At the same time, both the Mayor and the State’s Attorney are in a simmering state of undeclared war with their own police officers. Things seem more calm than they did during the heights of the riots, obviously, but there still seems to be some bad blood remaining according to local reports.
All of this is taking place in the shadow of some unseemly math figures which keep driving the local news cycle. With the police in a “less aggressive posture” these days, the city is in the midst of the highest murder rate it’s seen in nearly a half century. This has led to their asking for the help of federal agents from the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the ATF to try to tamp down the violence and establish some sort of normalcy.
For several years “American cities have not seen an uptick in homicides we’re seeing in 2015,” [acting police commissioner, Kevin] Davis said Monday. “Now we’re back at the table, and our cities are looking at Baltimore. They want to know what Baltimore’s going to do about it.”
Davis had said Sunday that more people are arming themselves on the streets, and that the department has seized 20 percent more guns than it had by this time last year. Davis also said the influx of prescription pills — 32 pharmacies were looted during the April 27 riot and nearly 300,000 doses of prescription medication stolen — has contributed to Baltimore’s spiking violence.
The real question is whether or not anything has substantially changed on the streets. A period of relative calm (aside from all the murders and assaults, that is) could be a sign that progress is being made, or it could just be the calm before the storm. But if the town goes up in flames again after this hearing or the following one on September 10th there are going to have to be some changes made. A new broom sweeps clean, and if they can’t bring down the murder rate or prevent additional riots and arson both Mosby and Rawlings-Blake need to step down and get some new blood in there that can rescue this city before it implodes.