On The Watch | WYPR

On The Watch

"On The Watch: Fixing The Fractured Relationship Between Baltimore's Police And Its Communities" is a special series from the WYPR newsroom. Please email the reporter at mmadden@wypr.org with any comments or suggestions.

This special series is supported by grants from the Bendit Family Foundation, Sig and Barbara Shapiro, The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, and Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

In 2001, as the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Black United Front brought a federal lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati and the police department for racial bias, a white officer in Cincinnati shot an unarmed black teenager as he fled police.

And then, along came a lengthy U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found a pattern of discriminatory practices by the department and an agreement for changes that took months to hammer out. The process of instituting those changes has lasted years. Some would say it’s ongoing.

Mary Rose Madden

Camden County Officer Tyrrell Bagby is headed to his usual beat, but on the way he sees a man stumbling, about to walk off the curb and into a busy intersection near City Hall.  Officer Bagby leans out the window and tells the man the train is coming and that he could be hurt “sitting in the middle of the street.”

Video: On The Watch - Tubman House

Jul 19, 2016

Last week, a Baltimore judge found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of reckless endangerment, among other charges, in the death last year of Freddie Gray.  Nero's attorneys said he wasn't aware of an updated policy that required prisoners to be seat belted when he helped put Gray in a transport van, handcuffed, with shackles, and no seatbelt.

According to the medical examiner, Gray died from injuries suffered in the back of the van.

Since the death of Freddie Gray last April and the protests and unrest that followed Baltimore’s Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has talked about the changes the department needs to make to improve relations between the police and the citizens in the city.

Baltimore's homicide rate rose last year while fewer cases were reported solved.  In 2015 the homicide rate rose more than 60% from the previous year.  In 2014 there were 211 homicides reported.  The number in 2015 was 344.  At the same time fewer homicide cases were reported solved.  The percentage of homicides solved by the police is called the clearance rate.  Last year, Baltimore saw its clearance rate drop from 57% in April to 40% in June and then it dropped to 30% in August which is where it hovered for the rest of the year, an arrow pointing in the wrong direction for the city.

Out of the 327 homicide cases in the city this year, only about 67 of these investigations have been closed.  The police need witnesses and information from the community in order to solve cases.  But the public wants info from police department, too -- such as the number of complaints made about police misconduct. And what happens to cops who are subject to internal investigations?

On the streets, pushing for change  

Every Wednesday night for almost two and half years, Tawanda Jones and her family gather on the street with supporters trying to get justice for her brother, Tyrone West. They chant, "I can't stop.  I won’t stop. Until killer cops are in cell blocks".

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