Baltimore Police Union Blames City's Murder Rate On Defunding Efforts That Never Happened

from the kindly-shut-your-noisehole dept

In response to the killing of a Baltimore police officer, the head of the Baltimore police union, Mike Mancuso, has decided to accuse everyone who doesn’t love cops as being responsible for her killing. The statement from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) was delivered via Twitter, portraying itself as an “Open Letter to the People of Baltimore.”

It’s not really an open letter. It’s a rant that makes false claims, punctuated with one particularly meaningless statistic to drive its point home: the Baltimore PD no longer feels it has the support of the city government, nor the people it serves. FOP President Mancuso is probably correct on both counts. But nowhere does he even hint that part of the problem might be the Baltimore Police Department.

Here’s where the letter goes off the rails. It starts in the second paragraph which means you won’t have to read much of the “open letter” [PDF] before your eyes start rolling. Let’s turn it over to the head of the FOP:

In this time of contemplation, I have come to realize that Baltimore and its citizens have reached a crossroads in the path toward the future. You can no longer be still, as the path ahead has so completely diverged as to make silence no longer an option. The politicians running Baltimore and Annapolis have defunded the police in a now obvious way allowing attrition and recruitment to be ignored, causing our ranks to fall some six hundred officers short of what is needed.

First off, there has been no defunding. This claim is clearly contradicted by the city’s annual budget numbers, which are posted publicly. Mancuso obviously hopes no one will check his math. Certainly the choir he’s preaching to won’t.

The Baltimore PD has never been defunded. It didn’t happen during the recent wave of defunding efforts across the nation. And it didn’t happen during any of the years Macuso has chosen to bracket his arguments with:

What has happened to our city is devastating. Since 2015, there have been 2318 victims of homicide and 4848 victims of shootings, all while in conjunction with a mass exodus of dedicated members of our agency.

I wonder what happened in 2015 that would have possibly led to (1) more gun violence and/or (2) a mass exodus of Baltimore police officers?

On April 12th, 2015, a 25-year-old black man from the west side of Baltimore named Freddie Gray was arrested for possession of a “switchblade,” put inside a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) transport van, and then, 45 minutes later, was found unconscious and not breathing, his spinal cord nearly severed. Following a seven-day coma, Gray died on April 19th; his untimely death and citizen video of his arrest, which showed Gray screaming in pain, prompted both the peaceful protests and headline-grabbing riots. The subsequent two-week police investigation ultimately concluded that Gray’s injury happened sometime during the van’s route – over six stops, with two prisoner checks, and another passenger pick-up.

This killing of Freddie Gray by BPD officers resulted in protests and backlash against the police department. The intervening years did nothing to improve the PD’s reputation nor its relationship with Baltimore residents.

In 2017, body camera footage of an officer planting drugs led to a department-wide investigation that resulted in the indictment of eight officers on racketeering charges for stealing money, fabricating evidence, and other misconduct. Hundreds of criminal cases were dismissed.

At that point, the PD was already subject to a consent decree from the DOJ, following its investigation of the department, which found:

BPD engages in a pattern or practice of: (1) making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; (2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.

By 2020, the number of indicted or convicted police officers had reached 14, adding in even more allegations (many sustained) of evidence theft, evidence planting, falsified paperwork, and a ton of rights violations.

So, it was not simply the backlash caused by the “rough ride” death of Freddie Gray, a man arrested for carrying a legal knife. The results of the DOJ’s investigation were published in 2016. The consent decree arrived January 2017, followed shortly thereafter by reports of corrupt cops planting drugs and stealing evidence.

Back to the FOP’s president’s statement. He claims the PD has been shedding officers steadily since that point. According to Mancuso, it’s the city holding the department back by somehow preventing the department from recruiting or hiring cops. But there has never been a hiring freeze. Some expenditures were put on hold during the COVID crisis. But, for the most part, the PD has had five out of the last six years to hire as many officers as it can.

There are several reasons the BPD might be leaking cops. Some of its worst officers might have left the force, realizing even a minimal amount of scrutiny might uncover their wrongdoing. Others may have left the force because they no longer wished to be associated with the corruption observed in several high-profile cases.

The same can be said for the PD’s inability to outpace departures with new hires. Good cops most likely would prefer to steer clear of a department with a reputation as terrible as Baltimore’s. Bad cops most likely steered clear of the BPD because officers were being overseen by a DOJ consent decree and the heightened scrutiny that always follows massive scandals. Realizing it might be more difficult to engage in lawless behavior, potential officers likely looked elsewhere.

With that out of the way, we can get back to looking at the department’s budget, which the FOP claims has been “defunded.” The stats are easily available, compiled and published by the City of Baltimore. Here’s how the years in question break down in terms of dollar amount and number of officers, which are the only stats the FOP cares about.

2015
Budget: $440,793,081
Employees: 3,470

2016
Budget: $467,608,064
Employees: 3,125

2017 (report for this year returns a 404 error, est. budget from 2016 request listed below)
Budget: $451,472,227
Employees: 3,125

2018
Budget: $486,079,670
Employees: 3,243

2019
Budget: $499,575,448
Employees: 3,243

2020
Budget: $508,291,238
Employees: 3,241

2021 (budgeted)
Budget: $500,357,075
Employees: 3,193

2022 (requested)
Budget: $521,725,791
Employees: 3,197

The FOP’s statement about defunding is a lie. So is its count of officers. It claims 600 have walked away and never been replaced. At best, the actual numbers show the BPD has shed less than 300 employees (not all of them officers) since 2015. As of last August, the BPD was only short 108 officers, nowhere near the number stated by the FOP.

Meanwhile — despite lower labor costs — the department’s budget has increased by nearly $81 million over the past five years. There was a slight dip between 2020 and 2021, but that dip is purely conceptual at this point. The BPD may end fiscal 2021 having spent more in 2021 than in 2020. Its budget may have been slightly lower than 2020 but its actual expenditures have yet to be tabulated.

There is no evidence of defunding here. And there’s no evidence the situation — in terms of officers — is anywhere near as dire as the FOP portrays it.

These are the factors the FOP ties to the increase in homicides. One has been exaggerated. The other is nonexistent.

It’s true the murder rate in Baltimore has been climbing since 2015. The FOP boss wants to blame it on everyone turning against the cops, resulting in a mass exodus of officers (isn’t happening) and the stripping of funding (isn’t happening either). Baltimore’s murder rate is the highest its been since the mid-1990s, which was a highwater mark for criminal activity almost everywhere in the country.

Maybe the explanation is closer to home than the FOP wants to admit. It could be the murder rate is rising because would-be murderers know the odds are with them. Even at its own, self-reported best, the PD only solves half the murders committed in Baltimore.

The official clearance rates for those years have been reported as 51% (2017), 43% (2018), 32% (2019), and 40% (2020).

At worst, the odds are even better for murderers. These clearance rates are inflated, according to the former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland, Thiruvendran “Thiru” Vignarajah. Vignarajah has examined the BPD’s reported crime stats and has some insight into how the department handles clearances. A cleared case doesn’t always mean the perp has been arrested or convicted. In some cases, the clearance means nothing has happened.

Vignarajah calculates it — without “exceptional clearances” and without arrests in homicides from previous years — the clearance rate for each of those years was much lower. “Less than a quarter [24%] of all 1,336 murders from the beginning of 2017 through the end of 2020 resulted in an arrest,” Vignarajah says.

Even if we give officers credit for closing cases that began the previous year, the abuse of “exceptional clearances” allows the PD to overstate its effectiveness.

The most common use of “exceptional clearances” is to pin murders on corpses. Subject only to a cursory review by supervisors and prosecutors (both of which clearly benefit from higher clearance races), investigators can claim a body in the morgue was responsible for the death of others. Sometimes they may be correct. But it certainly looks like an easy way to juice clearance rates, all without having to actually prove the cadaver committed the crime.

The actual number of exceptional clearances may seem small compared to the ~300+ murders committed in Baltimore every year, but it’s enough to turn a disappointing number into something that appears to show a supposedly undermanned and underbudgeted homicide unit is exceeding expectations.

The number of cases closed by exception in Baltimore has increased in each of the last four years, data obtained by The Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request show, from 11 in 2014 to 18 in 2015 to 26 in 2016 to 34 last year. The practice has helped police improve their homicide clearance rate over that time, from 30.7 percent in 2015 to 51.4 percent last year.

In 2018, there were 309 murders in Baltimore. The PD allowed more than 10% of those cases to be closed by blaming it on someone who could no longer defend themselves against these charges. In some cases, this may have been true. But the easy out dead-ends investigations and allows the PD to rack up unearned wins. It also, obviously, allows some murderers to go free.

All of this undermines the breathless conclusion to Mike Mancuso’s open letter. If the claims he makes and the correlations he implies are false, then this is all just pro-cop agitation, completely devoid of meaning.

This is not a political issue of left vs. right, nor is it a rift between Baltimore’s citizens and their sworn protectors. This is simply a fight between good vs. evil, and we must decide where we stand.

Sorry, Mr. Mancuso. The PD has proven capable of housing plenty of evil. And the murder stats cited are meaningless without the uncomfortable context that the BPD is just kind of terrible at solving murders. The claim about defunding is flat-out false. If the PD can’t find a way to attract and retain officers despite remaining fully funded for the last half-decade (this includes the governor’s $150 million budget boost for 2022 — one delivered by the governor with verbal attacks on defunding efforts), the problems are mostly internal. Heal thyself, BPD. And kick this ridiculous charlatan to the curb. He’s useless and he’s a liar.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Baltimore Police Union Blames City's Murder Rate On Defunding Efforts That Never Happened”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
29 Comments
interestingtakeonit says:

interesting take

yes…… you can look up budgets that are publicly available – just about every level of gov does this nowadays.. however…..
a budget that shows funding does NOT necessarily mean that the money is being spent where it’s been allocated and/or being spent at all.

money is very often moved around/reverted and it does not necessarily get reflected in those documents.
food for thought.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: interesting take

Very interesting, which might be why the issues with using budgetary numbers were discussed:

Meanwhile — despite lower labor costs — the department’s budget has increased by nearly $81 million over the past five years. There was a slight dip between 2020 and 2021, but that dip is purely conceptual at this point. The BPD may end fiscal 2021 having spent more in 2021 than in 2020. Its budget may have been slightly lower than 2020 but its actual expenditures have yet to be tabulated.

See Tim didn’t use "budget" numbers. Tim used the publicly available actual expense data. The exceptions were 2017, where the report wasn’t loading at the time of writing, and 2021 and 2022, for which data is not yet available. Your post suggests Tim used entirely budgetary data, or that he did not consider the issues of budgets versus actual. Neither is true.

Nor is it common for a audited report like this to hide significant portions of another department’s expenses in the law enforcement expenses. Money certainly gets moved around during the year, budgets aren’t law. Every business differs from the budget. But the count of actual expenses will, within some tolerance for data entry error, be an actual count of expenses.

This nothing sandwich is great food for thought.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Koby (profile) says:

Check The Legislation

The Baltimore city council indeed DID cut the police budget by $22 mil back in 2020. Budget projections from government rarely match up with actual spending. If a bunch of police quit, and the rest of the force are required to work overtime to make up for the defect, then it IS very possible to cut the budget and yet spend more. It probably would have cost less in the long run not to make the cuts.

Similarly, the number of police currently hired usually grows in response to population growth, or a crime wave. Baltimore knows how many police they need in order to make up for worker employment turnover, avoid overtime, and meet service demands. They are 600 personnel short.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Check The Legislation

The 2020 budget was reduced by $22 million, about 4.4% of the budget. This was done because the city had projected a $103 Million shortfall in expected revenues compared to the original 2020 budget. (9th paragraph down, near the ‘cuts to overtime’ header)

This was not done in response to BLM. It was in response to budgetary needs.

Your own the budget doesn’t matter in the real world perspective highlights why cutting the budget by such a small amount doesn’t matter, something the article I linked highlights. If a genuine need outside the plan arises, they can go to the council and get more funding. A significant portion of the cut is simply restoring the cities control over a discretionary spending fund. There is no reason to assume they wouldn’t get it.

Though, if we are going to treat necessary budget cuts as defunding, I imagine the crime rate would be much lower if the city stopped defunding schools (school funding having a correlative effect on current crime and future crime)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

For what reason does Baltimore need to hire more cops to handle this issue, though? Cops don’t generally prevent crime; better social conditions do. Moving part of a bloated police budget to social programs that can help ease the root causes of crime sounds like a better idea than hiring more cops, at least to me.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

bullhockey says:

Re: Re: unfortnately

ya right.. lets throw trillions of dollars at social bs… that can’t be maintained – you do realize RICH folks commit crimes too. just because you have wealth, status, plenty of activities, and mobility, doesn’t mean that criminal activity is off the table.

it steams me no end to see these soro’s backed liberal DA- saying they refuse to incarcerate and or prosecute crime – (except for worst case things).. they make it sound like its really no big deal – "it’s happened to me personally – i survived, i got past it.. moved on… yada yada yada…. " (mouth moving -but. nothing worth while to listen to…)

i have news for you… myself as well as others will not tolerate it. If they won’t arrest /prosecute – it will become a wild west free for all –
if i am threatened – i will defend myself.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: unfortnately

you do realize RICH folks commit crimes too. just because you have wealth, status, plenty of activities, and mobility, doesn’t mean that criminal activity is off the table

And how do you propose that not having stronger social safety nets will prevent white collar crimes?

saying they refuse to incarcerate and or prosecute crime – (except for worst case things)

What kind of reality have you been living in where small crimes don’t get punished, prosecuted, or led to imprisonment? If anything, it’s difficult to have worst case scenarios punished, especially if the people involved are rich. Because they’re the ones who have the resources to actually put up a defense and drag out the case. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have the right to, but the idea that throwing more money at the police will somehow mitigate this… simply does not add up.

If they won’t arrest /prosecute – it will become a wild west free for all

Do you actually think that absolutely no arrests or prosecutions happen? What do you think the US has been filling its prisons with to the point where they consistently hold world records for percentage of population imprisoned?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: unfortnately

"lets throw trillions of dollars at social bs… that can’t be maintained"

It’s more maintainable than sending in execution squads to deal with people who might be suicidal.

"you do realize RICH folks commit crimes too"

Yes, usually very different crimes that require very different methods of enforcement. There wouldn’t be complaints if the money was being spent on increasing the white collar crime taskforces instead of military surplus toys.

"soro’s backed"

Just once, I’d like you morons to provide proof that any individual is funded. by Soros. For some reason the man is incredible – he’s apparently spending billions in hiring half the population of the US for everything from occupying high level government positions to personally employing every protester who opposes right-wing issues, but nobody ever seems to be able ti find a single receipt. Which obviously raises the question of how you know it’s happening since there’s no verifiable proof, but the occasional example would be nice.

"if i am threatened – i will defend myself."

Nah, you’ll be a pants-shitting coward if faced with real issues like all of your ilk. You’ll welcome fascism if you think you’ll be on the winning team, but continue to oppose the things that improve your lot and expand your actual freedoms.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: unfortnately

"ya right.. lets throw trillions of dollars at social bs… that can’t be maintained…"

You realize the rest of the G20 does exactly that, and we maintain it just fine.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Every. Damn. Time universal health care, decent living wages or helping the poor comes up, some alt-right fsckwit shows up and tells us it’s impossible for the US to do what the rest of the world has successfully lived with for fifty years or more.

"just because you have wealth, status, plenty of activities, and mobility, doesn’t mean that criminal activity is off the table."

If poor people commit 99% of crimes and the wealthy perform 1% of crimes that’s not a valid comparison.
There is no higher driver of criminality than poverty. Doubting that stopped being a thing among educated people three centuries ago.

It always gets me, how a certain type of witless asshat can keep advocating forking over ten pounds of cure, to the tune of gagging bagfuls of money, rather than spend a tenth that amount on prevention.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 unfortnately

It’s the usual cycle.

The "left": we should do X

The "right": that’s impossible

L: But, it’s proven to work in almost every other developed country!

R: Here’s some reasons as to why that’s not possible here (cue litany of excuses often rooted in suspicious obsessions with things like homogenised populations and talk of distances that aren’t any different in the most populated parts of the country compared to elsewhere)

"If poor people commit 99% of crimes and the wealthy perform 1% of crimes that’s not a valid comparison."

Especially when you consider the relationship between each other. Maybe there’s a causal effect between the white collar criminals who tanked the global economy and the rise in criminal activity among the newly destitute population? But, apparently you can’t afford to give the latter a safety net because you forgot to prosecute the last group of ponzi scheme artists…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ima let you finish after you answer a quick question.

You know the ones… I don’t recall anyone being banned for claiming that lower taxes and regulation are the solution to everyone’s problems even when the claim is laughably false. Other "conservative" ideals, however…

But, it’s easier to claim you’re being oppressed when Nazis are banned than it is to ponder on why you share so many political beliefs with Nazis.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ima let you finish after you answer a quick question

"…it’s easier to claim you’re being oppressed when Nazis are banned than it is to ponder on why you share so many political beliefs with Nazis."

The issue of self-awareness isn’t one the alt-right typically has.

I once spoke with a person who was adamant they weren’t racist when they claimed black people just committed proportionally more crimes. Boiling it down this is what the convo looked like;

Him: "Black people commit a LOT more crimes, proportionally, than ordinary white folks".

Me: "WHY do black people commit more crimes, proportionally, than white folk?"

Him: "They’re poor, lazy, live like animals in ghettos."

Me: "So why are they poor and live in ghettos?"

Him: "Because they can’t be arsed to improve themselves."

Me: "Why not?"

Him: "Because they’re not that smart and they’re too lazy to work"

Me: "So is there ANY part of your assertions where you don’t just assume black people are inferior to white people?"

Him: "I’m not a racist, you asshole!!"

This part has to be dealt with first. And that’s a huge damn issue given that most actual racists will just take that <insert minority here> is lesser for granted and get really upset when people point out that view on reality they lean on for so much it might as well be part of who and what they are is dictionary-definition racism.

And then they get real upset and like any other emotional toddler try to deflect, project and throw tantrums so they won’t have to realize they’re doubling down on being horrible people.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We’ve watched a Congresscritter saying Jan 6 was just like normal tourists visiting while the video of the insurection & photos of the fear on his face trying to block the door & get an armed officer to protect him…

Truth no longer matters to many people, just empty phrases & hollow claims.

I miss critical thinking & the reality of what you can see/hear/feel winning over those claiming it didn’t happen like that.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I miss critical thinking & the reality of what you can see/hear/feel winning over those claiming it didn’t happen like that."

That never really existed. Americans have subscribed to magical thinking all the way back to the pioneer times. P.T. Barnum could never have emerged from anywhere but the US.

There’s an old Newsweek article which is still accessible with a bit of googling. Isaac Asimov’s "The cult of ignorance".

It’s well worth reading and highlights how the lack of critical thinking and the rejection of clearly observable facts have always been part of the US political landscape.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'What do you mean we're not the good guys?!'

This is not a political issue of left vs. right, nor is it a rift between Baltimore’s citizens and their sworn protectors. This is simply a fight between good vs. evil, and we must decide where we stand.

I mean, they’re right, just probably not in the way they think they are…

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: 'What do you mean we're not the good guys?!'

"This is not a political issue of left vs. right, nor is it a rift between Baltimore’s citizens and their sworn protectors. This is simply a fight between good vs. evil…"

So, an issue between humanitarian liberal values and, ah…"conservative values"?

I think I’m beginning to understand Koby’s perspective a little.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...