A new report alleges that Baltimore police officers were told not to engage with protesters during the April riots.
A senior law enforcement source had charged that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had given an order for police to stand down as riots broke out in Baltimore, raising more questions about whether some of the violence and looting could have been prevented.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake denied the allegations.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Baltimore police commanders now “acknowledge” that they ordered officers not to engage with rioters on the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts reportedly gave the stand down orders “to protect officers and citizens as they prioritized life over property,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
In April, Batts, other police commanders and city officials denied that they directed police officers to do nothing, as dozens of business were raided and looted by rioters.
The Baltimore Sun reported:
Commanders told The Sun that they asked officers to “hold the line” as part of an overall deployment strategy to create a barrier between rioters and police operations and potentially vulnerable people. If officers broke lines during a face-off with rock-throwing protesters, for instance, they could be isolated and surrounded by mobs. And if officers broke the line to make arrests, they might have been forced to guard them amid all the chaos when transport vans weren’t available.
“There’s an amount of discipline necessary to navigate your way through a civil disturbance,” Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
But some officers say they should have been able to break their shoulder-to-shoulder lines and charge rioters, make arrests and quell the disturbance. The police union supports their claims, and the organization is expected to release an “after action report” in the coming weeks that should include many first-hand accounts from officers.
The union has requested texts, emails and radio transmissions between police commanders and City Hall for review. As of Tuesday, the union had received only one tape from the voluminous riot transmission record.
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