Baltimore Arrest Drop Shows Zero-Tolerance Policy Decline


Baltimore police are arresting fewer people than they have in years past, says the Baltimore Sun. Still, almost 1,600 drug arrests in the first eight months of this year could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence. The decrease in arrests – 7,500 fewer through August compared with last year – provides evidence for what police officials have been saying: that they have stepped away from “zero-tolerance” policing. Jailing people for minor offenses that didn’t result in criminal charges clogged the city jail and led to criticism and lawsuits. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued over what they called “illegal arrests.”

Last week, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III called the volume of arrests in previous years “mind-boggling.” “Did we really accomplish a lot doing that?” he said. Instead of filling the jails “with a whole bunch of arrests for arrests’ sake, [] we’re going to be much more focused.” Moreso than the previous three police chiefs, Bealefeld has disavowed zero-tolerance policing. That style included strategies such as “stop and frisk,” popular under Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm, and the “broken windows” or quality-of-life-crimes crackdown, popular under Commissioners Edward Norris and Kevin Clark. Norris said last week he used the stop-and-frisk technique to target specific crime outbreaks, not to cast a wide net over the citizenry. He said that after he left the department in 2002, successors broadened the strategy’s scope, leading to thousands of unnecessary arrests. The ACLU’s David Rocah said this year’s arrest numbers show that the department has “moved slightly in the right direction, but not enough for anyone to say the problem has been solved.”


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