Kevin Rector and Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun, July 8, 2015
The rioting following the death of Freddie Gray was “preventable,” with the police response hindered by leadership that was concerned with image over safety, the city police union charged in a report released Wednesday.
The union, which collected accounts from officers, concluded that the “overwhelming sentiment of officers is that the Baltimore Police Department’s response to the riot was lacking in many areas.”
“Officers characterized the Baltimore Police Department’s leadership during the riots as unprepared, politically motivated, uncaring and confusing,” union President Gene Ryan said at a news conference.
Ryan said morale “has suffered greatly,” but officers compiled the report because they “do not want to see Baltimore burn again.”
Officials at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents more than 2,500 sworn officers, have been critical of decisions made by top police commanders during the unrest–including orders for officers to hold their lines rather than break off in smaller numbers to confront individuals causing damage or representing a threat to officer safety.
The 32-page review stated that officers claimed “that they lacked basic riot equipment, training, and, as events unfolded, direction from leadership,” and that “the passive response . . . allowed the disorder to grow into full scale rioting.”
The review outlined a number of issues, including orders given “not to engage protestors,” that arrests “had to be approved by civilians” in the police legal section, and that Commissioner Anthony W. Batts sought “to divide” the department “rather than unite it.” It also criticized the timing of the National Guard arrival and the department’s release of a later-unfounded gang threat in the hours prior to the unrest.
More than 130 officers were injured by bricks, rocks and other objects during the unrest on April 27–which broke out hours after Gray’s funeral. In May, Batts apologized to the city’s officers, saying he put them in harm’s way.
After the protests turned destructive, hundreds of businesses were damaged as instances of looting and arson broke out across the city, particularly in West Baltimore.
[Editor’s Note: Below is the cover of the report. Here is the full report.]