Baltimore Police 'stop and frisk' oversight faulted by ACLU

November 19, 2013|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Out of more than 120,000 documented citizen stops by Baltimore Police last year, only 494 resulted in a search and just nine guns were recovered, according to data the agency released to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

The data offers a snapshot of police enforcement on the city streets, though the ACLU said it raises more questions than it answers and on Tuesday called on the department to keep better track of how much officers conduct "stop and frisks."

"Everything about the BPD's response - and lack thereof - to the ACLU's request for public records demonstrates that the BPD has completely failed to supervise how officers deploy 'stop-and-frisk- tactics against Baltimore residents, despite complaints about abuse of the tactic stretching back over a decade," the ACLU said in a statement.

According to the data, which covers the period in which the department was overseen by former Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, police stops have been on the rise, from 59,000 in 2010 to 80,000 in 2011 to 123,000 last year, though the agency said 30,000 of last year's stops haven't been entered into a database. Meanwhile, police said stop and frisks rose during that period, from 203 to 494.

For those stops, police had little to show, according to the department data: of the 203 stops in 2010, police recovered drugs 18 times, 12 guns and four knives. Of 209 searches in 2011, police recovered drugs nine times and confiscated just two guns and one knife.

Of the 494 searches last year, police found drugs 10 times and recovered nine guns and one knife.

The ACLU was skeptical of the number of searches.

"It seems highly unlikely that, of 123,221 investigative stops in 2012, only 494 resulted in searches," they wrote in a recent letter to the department. "Nor does it speak well of BPD that the only items it can report recovered out of more than one hundred and twenty thousand stops were 10 controlled dangerous substances, 9 guns and 1 knife."

A spokesman for the agency could not immediately be reached for a response.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts was asked by The Sun about the seemingly low number of reported stop and frisks in September, and said he look into the matter while pledging to retrain officers on constitutional use of stop and frisk.

During an panel discussion in New York City yesterday, Batts told attendees that Baltimore's murder rate has risen two consecutive years because he has instructed officers to move away from aggressive policing and stop and frisks in order to build public trust.

"Now the discussion is, by changing that, did you cause that crime rate to go up?" Batts said, according to a report by Capital New York.

In Baltimore, Batts has largely attributed the rise in shootings and homicides to gang involvement and attrition within the department's ranks.

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