The Corner

Politics & Policy

Baltimore’s Dwindling Police Force

In a previous post, I noted that the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement (Gail Heriot and Kirsanow dissenting) expressing alarm over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s directive that the Justice Department review its investigations of, and consent decrees with, various police departments to ensure such investigations and decrees appropriately support local law enforcement. The Commission majority maintains that such decrees result in “better policing.”

It’s unlikely the Commission intended “better policing” to mean “fewer police,” but that’s precisely the result in Baltimore, where cops came under fire from both the Obama DOJ and local officials after the Freddie Gray incident. The local CBS affiliate now reports that there’s a dramatic shortage of cops in the city. Whereas since 2000, the number of Baltimore police officers has never fallen below 2,900, now there are only 2,500. The force is beset by turnover and an inability to recruit new officers. It’s estimated that it may cost the city $5-10 million a year to comply with the terms of the consent decree. This, on top of $1 million more in additional overtime costs incurred as a result of manpower shortages. Murders have increased 30 percent over last year, shootings are up 80 percent.

Not all of this may be attributable to the consequences of the investigations and consent decree, but it’s consistent with the Ferguson effect — a withdrawal of robust police presence due to constraints placed on the force by officials who conflate racial bean counting with public safety.

Keep reviewing those decrees General Sessions.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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