Tags: Baltimore Riots | baltimore | mayor | crime | surge | police

Baltimore Mayor Facing Angry Police, Surging Crime

Baltimore Mayor Facing Angry Police, Surging Crime
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Saturday, 11 July 2015 09:36 PM

Even after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Police Comiisioner Anthony Batts, she faces a balancing act between reining in the city's police department and its history of abusive behavior and bringing the city's growing crime rate under control.

Part of the problem, reports The New York Times, is that the consensus among many, including those in neighborhoods still scarred by the riots that raged in the days following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, is that Batts wasn't at fault for what happened. Instead, many blame the mayor.

"Batts was made to be the fall guy. To save herself, the mayor fired him," deliveryman Woody James, 50, told The Times.

Rawlings-Blake, 45, was having difficulty already trying to repair the "broken relationship" that had existed between the city's residents and the police when the riots broke out, and violent crime is still climbing in the city.

Already this year, there have been 155 homicides in the city, up from 105 during the same time period last year. But violent crime is also spiking in several of the nation's other cities, reports USA Today, including in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, all places where homicides are happening at a higher rate.

Rawlings-Blake is seeking re-election in 2016, and City Council Vice President Edward Reisinger, who called for Batts to be fired, commented that he thinks her biggest challenge "is that she has to demonstrate that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings­-Blake is the leader of the city of Baltimore, and that she can manage the city. As far as I’m concerned, she was doing a good job, but with the civil unrest, I think it lowered her stock."

But her office says brutality complaints have dropped in Baltimore since she took office, and in 2011, under her watch, there were 197 homicides, the lowest number in a decade.

"The challenge is rebuilding the hope and the spirit of a traumatized community," she told The Times on Thursday, after attending a night basketball league game between local teenagers playing against police officers and firefighters.

Rawlings-Blake said she is not surprised by the opposition against her in the community, as "there are scars, there's anger. We have been through a very rough time."

She may also face a tough challenge in former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who then-Council President Rawlings-Blake replaced in 2010 after a scandal forced her from the seat. Rawlings-Blake was elected in 2011.

However, Dixon has announced she plans to challenge Rawlings-Blake in next year's Democratic primary, and even though the mayor dismisses her as a threat, public support in West Baltimore is with Dixon, who they regard as a better representative.

Further, people are still blaming Rawlings-Blake for responding slowly to the riots, as well for the urban blight in Baltimore.

Rawlings-Blake hired Batts in 2012, after he had been a police chief in Oakland and Long Beach, Calif. But Batts, who is black like the mayor, angered police officers by calling for body cameras and tougher internal discipline.

But while his approach appealed initially to the community, many called for him to resign after the riots and after details of Gray's arrest were made public.

Batts was not let go until Wednesday, two days after The Baltimore Sun published an opinion piece by a mugging victim who was attacked while he was riding his bicycle, and who found that his local police station was closed when he went to report the crime.

"It seemed ridiculous," wrote Connor Meek, who said he was attacked by several young people who stole his bicycle. "I wish they had informed me of the unusual schedule before I bought a home in the neighborhood. I would have known that the illegal and dangerous parking habits and high-speed traffic of police cars through the neighborhood didn't come with the assumed benefits: security and peace-of-mind."

By Wednesday, Reisinger called the problem "stupid with a capital S" and a community coalition called for Batt's dismissal. City Council members also circulated a letter asking Rawlings-Blake to fire Batts, and the police union came out with a report calling the riots "preventable."

Councilman Nick Mosby, who is married to prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, told The Times that the mayor has learned the hard way what being a city leader really means.

"I don’t care what race you are or how old you are, I don’t care if you are the mayor of New York City or the mayor of Mayberry," he said, "public safety is paramount in the way people judge effectiveness. It’s one of the sole barometers of: Is this person a leader or not?"

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Even after Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Police Comiisioner Anthony Batts on Wednesday, she faces a balancing act between reining in the city's police department and its history of abusive behavior and bringing the city's growing crime rate under...
baltimore, mayor, crime, surge, police
Saturday, 11 July 2015 09:36 PM
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