"Baltimore and the 'Ferguson Effect'"WYPR, Baltimore's National Public Radio (NPR) Station
Adam Braskich participated in a radio panel discussing the perceptions of policing in African American communities following the death of Freddie Gray. Braskich said police relationships have improved in recent years since the previous era of zero tolerance policies, which undermined the police-community relationship. "However, there's an extent to which the police department uses enforcement as the primary means of quelling violence. Enforcement is everything from car stops to accosting people walking down the street, stop-and-frisk, arrests," Braskich said. "I think that these tactics do, to a certain extent, quell violent crime; but at the same time, it can make the residents of the neighborhoods where these tactics are used feel oppressed and feel that they are being treated unfairly by the police."
Braskich later addressed concerns that increased scrutiny of police officers has made it harder for them to do their jobs effectively. "I think the level of scrutiny has gotten so great, especially in certain parts of Baltimore and in the Western District, that officers do feel a little bit hesitant about engaging in the sort of proactive policing that they might normally do," he said. "I think what police officers are worried about is not having their face on YouTube or CNN, but procedural justice. And to the extent that police officers feel that they might be disciplined unfairly or even criminally prosecuted for what they see as a reasonable mistake made in a very tense situation, I think that can have a chilling effect on how police officers do their jobs. And I think that was the sentiment of many Baltimore police officers after the filing of charges in the Freddie Gray case."
Braskich suggested that an independent investigative body could increase trust between police officers and the communities. "It may make the community feel that there's more transparency and more fairness if you had some sort of independent investigative body. These sorts of things exist in other countries like Canada, the UK, Norway, and I think officers would welcome this, so long as the people doing the investigations understand the difference between malicious criminal acts -- which officers do sometimes commit and should be held accountable for -- and reasonable mistakes, which are made in very tense, split-second decisions."