Baltimore’s police force remains in the limelight with the ongoing trials of the officers involved with the death of Freddie Gray, which set off riots and became part of the ongoing debate about police relations with the African American community. Yet, as police became the subject of intense scrutiny, crime began to spike. Last year was one of the most violent the city had seen in recent memory with 344 homicides. Now, there’s been a 6.1 percent drop in its police force (Via Reuters):
The number of uniformed officers in the mid-Atlantic city fell 6.1 percent last year and has shrunk by even more in the first half of this year, according to police data seen by Reuters and not previously reported.
The fall in 2015 was the biggest decline in police numbers among nine comparably-sized U.S. cities reviewed by Reuters. The police force in Detroit and El Paso shrank by 4.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, while Denver and Las Vegas saw increases of over 5 percent.
The reasons for the fall are unclear, but it comes at a difficult time when the number of murders and other violent crimes have risen sharply in Baltimore and many other U.S. cities.
Shrinking budgets have pressured police recruitment in many U.S. cities, including Baltimore, where police officials say they also face steep competition from neighboring Washington to recruit and retain cops. Baltimore's most recent budget slashed municipal government, reflecting a declining tax base, the city's tepid economy and high unemployment.
The city ended 2015 with 2,634 sworn officers on its police force, down from 2,805 a year earlier, according to Police Department data. From January to June 9, the force shrank by a further 6.8 percent to 2,445 officers, according to city records.
After the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Louisiana and Minnesota respectively, the debate over police brutality has reemerged, albeit more violently, as have the threats against law enforcement. In Dallas, twelve police officers were shot, with five being killed, by a Micah Xavier Johnson, a U.S. Army veteran, who told police negotiators that he was angry about the recent string of shootings, and that he wanted to kill white people officers. In Tennessee, a man opened fire on a highway highlighting similar motives. Threats against police have been pouring in, with the Dallas Police HQ being put on lockdown last night. In San Antonio, someone fired shots at their police headquarters.