Stop demanding the impossible of police

The Baltimore Sun

In this opinion article, Adam Braskich recommends an overhaul of current policing tactics and suggests several reforms following the rioting and increased tensions between the public and Baltimore police force after the death of Freddie Gray. Braskich, who spent three years as a Baltimore patrol officer prior to attending Harvard Law School, saw firsthand the troubling effects of what he calls "overzealous police tactics" in Baltimore. "Why do officers use methods that alienate and offend the communities they serve?" he asked. "In large part, the answer is because the public majority pressures them to do so. Elected officials, supported by voters, require police to shoulder an impossible burden - they must not only respond to crimes as they occur but prevent crime from happening in the first place. But in an effort to prevent crime, the police employ aggressive tactics that may do more harm than good.

"We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the way that our demands shape officer actions," he said. "To meaningfully improve police/community relations, we have to change what we expect officers to do."

Braskich said reforms such as overhauling performance metrics, ending pretextual traffic stops and consent searches, suspending street-level enforcement units and curtailing order-maintenance enforcement would provide both officers and the public much-needed relief. "But real change won't occur unless Baltimore's political leaders move to end overly aggressive policing," which will not be easy, he said. "Regaining the public's trust will be a more effective long-term crime prevention strategy than the current approach. With renewed public confidence, we can expect to see crime rates decrease as communities lend much-needed support to a police agency that they trust."

On May 17, 2015, this article appeared in the Sunday print edition of The Baltimore Sun with the title "We demand the impossible of police."

This article was referenced in an editorial by The Baltimore Sun staff titled "Baltimore is not Cleveland" on May 27, 2015.

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