Baltimore police are distributing cards designed to intimidate some suspects, and the department is developing a video to counter a recent DVD in which potential witnesses are threatened, says the Baltimore Sun. The police department is even thinking about placing officers atop lifeguard chairs in the most violent parts of the city. “It’s psychological warfare,” said Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm. “It’s part of the crime plan to target violent people.”
Much of the campaign is modeled after military tactics to demoralize and influence an enemy. It demonstrates a shift toward a style of policing that promotes direct dialogue among police, criminals and embattled communities. The city recorded 278 homicides last year, more than any other city of similar size. “We don’t think we can win over hard-core criminals with a 3-by-5 card or a DVD,” said police spokesman Matt Jablow, “but we can make a difference with the people who are teetering.” Some are dubious about whether the tactics will work. “There is nothing wrong with the police business being on the lookout for good ideas, but I think we have to be concerned when too much energy is being spent on [public relations] machinations rather than on public safety,” said Eugene O’Donnell of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, a former New York police officer and prosecutor.