Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley declared unequivocal support for Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark after the Baltimore Sun published a story detailing poor morale in the police department. The mayor said any disgruntlement stems mostly from veteran officers resistant to reforms and from union leaders upset with stalled contract talks. O’Malley also said, however, that the department could improve the ways it communicates its mission, The Sun reports. “We should distinguish between people being unsatisfied with contract negotiations and morale,” O’Malley said.
The Sun documented discontent and unease throughout the ranks that could harm crime-fighting at a time when homicides are on pace to reach nearly 300 killings by year’s end. Much of the criticism, which came from officers and commanders who requested anonymity because they feared reprisals, stemmed from Clark’s recent senior-staff shake-ups and a perceived inability to communicate his department’s plan to fight drugs and homicides. Through yesterday, Baltimore had recorded 160 homicides this year, putting it on pace for 297 killings for the year. That would surpass last year’s 253 but would be far fewer than the 300 that was the annual benchmark of the 1990s.
O’Malley countered that Baltimore’s 25.98 percent reduction in incidents of violent crime during the first three years of his administration leads the nation. He credited police officers for the record but said more progress is needed.
The most glaring communication breakdown is between the administration and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents the department’s 3,300 officers. The union has refused to negotiate O’Malley’s offer of no pay raises for at least one year and higher health care premiums. FOP members have been working under a contract that expired June 30.