The Baltimore Police Department’s warning that local gangs were teaming up in an effort to “take out” cops after Freddie Gray’s death was bullshit. How do we know? Even the city’s police union agrees.
Today, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police released a 32-page “After Action Review” of the department’s response to the riots and protests that followed Gray’s death in police custody. One area with which the union takes issue is the aforementioned threat warning, which the department issued during Gray’s funeral on the morning of April 27. “The Baltimore Police Department...has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take-out’ law enforcement officers,” the department’s warning read. “This is a credible threat.” (Emphasis theirs.)
The idea was fishy from the beginning. Was this really a credible threat, or just a dumb meme some kid posted to Instagram? And would it be used to justify a large show of force from the department? Here’s what the union had to say:
ISSUE: On Monday April 27, 2015, at 11:25 a.m., the Office of the Police Commissioner, Media Relations Section, committed a serious error. The Baltimore Police Media Relations Section sentthe media an unconfirmed report that there was a “credible threat to law enforcement.”
The credible threat was, in fact, an unconfirmed rumor. Circulating this rumorundermined the credibility of law enforcement and unnecessarily inflamed tensions. In aJune 25, 2015 article in The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Police Department spokespersonCaptain Eric Kowalczyk said in a statement, “Due to the exigency of the circumstances,the credibility of the threat at the time it was received, extraordinary action was taken.The department acted out of an abundance of caution rather than see an officer injured orkilled and would do so again.”The troubling portion of Captain Kowalczyk’s statement is that the Baltimore PoliceDepartment “would do so again.”
This is another example of how the Baltimore PoliceCommand is not committed to fixing the problems exposed by the riots. When it is clear that the Baltimore Police Command made an error, a lesson must be learned so that a different protocol may be followed moving forward. Certainly, any mistake made in aneffort to protect officers should be forgiven. However, the lack of introspection byBaltimore Police Command is a grave mistake. In After Action Reviews, there is a nonjudgmentalconcept of “lessons learned” which allows that performance can be improvedupon. This uncorroborated report (rumor) should have never been released to the media.
The veracity of the report has been called into question before. Last month, Vice News and the Baltimore Sun reported that both the FBI and a suburban Baltimore police department investigated the threat and found nothing of substance there.
The well-reasoned criticism of the department’s communications operation might lead you to believe that the union’s entire report is a peacenik’s ode to law enforcement restraint, but of course that isn’t the case. Much of the report is devoted to lamenting that cops weren’t permitted to engage with protesters more directly, and that the department released arrested protesters more quickly than the union felt it should have. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.