An official with the Baltimore Police Department stated on Thursday that the force has received as many tips concerning the mass shooting in Brooklyn at the beginning of the month as there were victims.
Shortly after midnight on July 2, a block party promoted to the public turned into a shooting that left two dead and 28 injured at the Brooklyn Homes public housing project. In reaction to Thursday night’s city council criticism of police relations, police chief Kevin Jones revealed that the agency had received 30 tips.
At a hearing called to investigate city failings that may have contributed to the violence, these issues were voiced. According to Jones, the tips show that the community once again trusts the police. “That’s how when you see the trust, that’s how it corresponds,” Jones said. “The trust is there. We’re still building on it.”
Baltimore Police tout number of tips in response to Brooklyn shooting. Others say that’s not a good measure of trust. https://t.co/spu5MoUkLI
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) July 15, 2023
“It needs to be proactive,” responded Councilman Zeke Cohen, who represents part of Southeast Baltimore. “Right now it feels reactive to the community. For me, it’s having the relationship where before the event we could have said, ‘This is going to escalate. We need to have a presence there.’”
Some Brooklynites share Cohen’s worries and feel the cops have let the community down. Experts warned against generalizing from a single incidence and stated that the number of tips police got following a catastrophe was not indicative of the public’s confidence in law enforcement.
When asked about this year’s version of the annual party, Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley said his department was unaware of it in advance and did not send out any additional personnel when it was uncovered. After a month on the job, he admitted that the error was due to a lack of both intelligence and communication.
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Cohen proposed at the council hearing that Worley address the department’s lack of community policing in light of the shooting, which was likely the largest in Baltimore’s history. He said the federal consent decree governing Baltimore Police, which was put in place to rectify decades of unlawful policing, “is just the paper it’s written on” if the public doesn’t have faith in them.
Community policing, in which officers are stationed in neighborhoods and encouraged to build connections with communities to reduce crime and address other issues, was mandated by the consent decree to be implemented by city police. Five-year Brooklyn Homes homeowner Justin Field stated, “The connection with the police, it’s been off quite a while now.”
Field, who is only 29, didn’t show out to the block party this year, but he stated that given the large turnout (up to 1,000 people, according to some estimates), police should have received more tips. He also noted an uptick in patrols and an increase in cops knocking on doors in the neighborhood since July 2.
“It shouldn’t take a tragedy for them to start doing their jobs,” Field said. In a survey of over 600 people in Baltimore City performed in 2020 as part of the consent decree, respondents who expressed dissatisfaction with the police department’s performance were more likely to want police to “do their jobs.“
Despite their lack of faith in the BPD, many respondents said they were interested in developing friendships with police. Officials from the police department spoke at the council meeting, detailing the department’s community policing initiatives while stressing the shortage of personnel.
According to Jones, each police division has a neighborhood coordinating officer and supervisor “who consistently go out in that community to try to build those relationships we have broken and to create new relationships.
“ As “one of the best in the city,” Worley praised Brooklyn’s neighborhood coordinating sergeant, adding that the cop he was thinking of was merely one of “numerous officers that frequent the area.” In spite of the department’s outreach efforts, he claims that nobody there was aware that Brooklyn Day was taking place.
longtime Brooklyn Homes resident Yulanda Smallwood said that, the frequency of Baltimore Police patrols in the community increased prior to the pandemic in 2020, but has decreased since then. Field speculated that residents would have more faith in law enforcement if officers were visible in the area.
He thinks Brooklyn Homes’ locals who might be able to provide important information are disillusioned with the Baltimore Police and frightened of retaliation. The reluctance of certain neighbors to cooperate with the police is puzzling to the rest of the neighborhood.
Mimi Howard, a new homeowner, questioned the lack of cooperation between the people and the police. “If my child had been there, I would say something,” Howard remarked on Friday.
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Ashley Heiberger, a policing expert and former captain from a department in Pennsylvania, “as a general principle, there is a direct proportion between the level of trust a community has in its police department and the level of cooperation police receive when doing investigations.”
However, “the number of tips received in a particular investigation isn’t particularly helpful without [a] baseline to which we can compare it, such as less high profile investigations.” When asked how many tips they often get following homicides and nonfatal shootings, the Baltimore Police Department did not provide an answer.
Coppin State University’s assistant criminal justice professor Michael Berlin has been impressed by the Northern Police District’s attendance at community meetings. As a former city police officer, he has nothing but praise for the current force’s community policing initiatives.
Berlin said it “falls a little flat” to use the department’s failure to anticipate the event and prepare for it when promoting the 30 suggestions as evidence of community trust. He continued by saying he was hopeful the “after-action review” Worley had promised would shed light on what had gone wrong with community outreach and information gathering.
“It seems to me there are elements of both,” Berlin said. “How are the police not aware of this big community event that happens every year? What was the intelligence about the incident, people being armed, or any specific intelligence to the actors that were there?”
Smallwood, who was born and raised in Brooklyn Homes and now lives there with her family, expressed no surprise at the high number of tips received by police in relation to the number of people shot. “Most people don’t talk,” she said.
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