In a push to seize guns and deter crime in dangerous neighborhoods, Baltimore police are aggressively stopping and frisking people, a tactic employed with little oversight from senior commanders and virtually no tracking of its effectiveness, reports the Baltimore Sun. Officials credit the strategy with helping to reduce homicides and violent crime in areas where people often ask for more police. Residents say they are unjustly harassed and detained. Defense lawyers and experts say they worry that the approach runs afoul of constitutional protections against illegal search and seizures.
Officers are constitutionally prohibited from conducting random stops and searches, but courts have ruled that officers could stop a person if they had “reasonable suspicion” that someone had a weapon or was in the midst of committing or preparing to commit a crime. Patrol officers, whose productivity is measured in large part by how many stops and arrests they make, have told their union representatives that what could be an effective tool is being overused in a daily push to ratchet up statistics. Officers report performing tens of thousands of such stops this year, according to internal documents reviewed by the Sun. After questions from the Sun, the department started an audit to determine the actual number of stop-and-frisks by officers.