Even before protesters burned Baltimore and filled the streets of New York and other cities, police departments had begun to retreat from the aggressive tactics of the 1990s that focused heavily on arresting petty offenders, says the Washington Post. A bitter legacy of anger lingers in West Baltimore and other urban neighborhoods. The disturbances that erupted after the death of Freddie Gray and other men stopped by police for minor violations are likely to accelerate the trend away from mass arrests and zero tolerance, policing experts said. “There are cycles in policing, just as there are cycles in economics . . . [and] the tide is turning,” said Thomas Reppetto, a former Chicago police detective and the author of a two-volume history of policing in America. “We're hearing a lot of the same things that we heard in the 1960s: The police have got to be less aggressive.”
New York City has drastically reduced its controversial “stop and frisk” program, in which police questioned and patted down large numbers of pedestrians. The city is considering using warnings instead of arrests for low-level offenses such as public drinking or riding a bike on a sidewalk. A presidential task force issued a report in March urging less confrontational police practices and more respectful ties with residents. In Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she gave up on “zero tolerance” because it ”ruined” good relationships between police and residents of high-crime neighborhoods. “What we forgot when we started that type of policing is that the neighborhoods that have the most homicides and shootings are also the neighborhoods that have the most victims and witnesses,” she said.