tv Baltimore Police Commissioner Discusses Reducing Crime CSPAN August 12, 2021 5:50am-6:20am EDT
the national rise in violent crimes. thank you for joining us, commissioner. commissioner harrison: thank you for having me. >> we had decades of declining crime. it seems like the days of the 19 80's were gone and here we are in the second straight year of homicides on a steady rise. what changed? is there anything baltimore is seeing that is different from the rest? of the country? ? commissioner harrison: i don't think baltimore is any different from the rest of the country. there are a number of factors. there is no one thing that is causing homicides to rise. what other people tell me they
are seeing is we certainly are affected by covid. no indictments, no prosecution. those things are beginning to happen now, but were not existed for a while. even before that, a lot of communities are becoming more liberal. what we used to enforce, we have had to make management decisions so that we can have more equitable and fair treatment. we have that and we have a year of covid. we have people that either do not believe there are consequences or do not fear those consequences or a combination of both. when you put all of that together with a movement away from enforcing minor offenses and only focusing on violent
offenses, you have people who are just out there committing crimes. some people are committing crimes because they do not fear the consequences and they do not believe there are consequences. what we are seeing in baltimore is somewhat drug-related. it is not all drug-related. the majority of what we are seeing our people that are settling conflicts with violence, gun violence, and are enacting violence against other people. they have poor conflict resolution skills and the children pick up the gun to solve their conflicts when they engage with this other person. we are witnessing more of that. just because a young person is in the drug trade, does not mean that the violence they committed was drug-related. there is a distinction. that is what we are seeing here
in baltimore from my conversations with chiefs around the country, they are seeing much of that as well. >> you touched on a lot of things. one of them you mentioned was not prosecuting low-level crime. state attorney marilyn mosby unveiled her plan to stop prosecuting minor drug patients, -- -- minor drug to -- cases. this would allow police to focus on more serious crimes. you told me back in march that you supported this. have you seen any impact with this so far? commissioner harrison: nonviolent and property crime continues to decrease here in baltimore. even as we ease the covid restrictions, crime did not go
up. only up four incidents in nonfatal shootings, that has come down over the past few months. what -- the x factor is covid. this happened after her policy decision after the beginning of covid. it was an internal policy decision. what we noticed is that crime did not go up. it continued to go down. even though we had to make adjustments, how we engage, how we entered or not entered homes, how we made arrests. we had to make major adjustments to her it -- to prevent ourselves from becoming infected with covid. that was a major concern. it did not go up, but it continued to go down. nonviolent crime continues to go down. i think we have to study it in a time period that is not affected by covid to know the
chronological impact. >> mayor brandon scott unveiled a five-year violence reduction plan. can you walk us briefly through what that entails and your department's involvement? commissioner harrison: absolutely. he unveiled a violence prevention plan recently. the public health approach to violence which encompasses the gun violence prediction -- prevention. the second pillar is about community engagement and interagency collaboration with neighborhood engagement, interagency coordination, building key partnerships and fostering relationships with the police department. the third pillar is about evaluation and accountability. strategic key performance indicators, performance management, community perception, policy, and
research. when you think about all of that together, it is a comprehensive disciplinary plan that includes the police department, especially nr violence reduction strategy where we not only enforce the law heavily against those who are committing murders, but offering them a pathway away from violent crime by bringing all of the necessary services and resources to them so that they can have an opportunity to have a life away from violent crime. this is an all-encompassing plan to reduce violence in baltimore under the mayor's leadership. proud to be a part of it. >> one of the things in that plan is being used here and elsewhere is violence interrupters. what role does that play and i also want to ask you, you have
had two violence interrupters murdered. what are your thoughts on whether or not this is going to work? commissioner harrison: it has worked in many places. i have seen at work in new orleans. it is something we use here now and will continue to use, even in this violence prevention plan. we have seen people with street credibility be able to diffuse the conflicts you heard me talk about moments earlier. it is very effective and an application that we are going to continue to use. while we have had two members who were violence interrupters shot and killed recently and our hearts and prayers go out to them, but we want to make sure that not only we can keep them safe, but we can use a program like this, which has been successful in reducing murder rates -- by using this
comprehensive approach, we want to make sure that not only we can keep them safe, but diffuse conflict to protect other people who are at high risk of either being a victim of a shooting or murder or a perpetrator of a shooting or murder. >> when you introduce concepts like this, how long does it take to see results? i am not saying we need results right now, but what in your eyes as someone who has been at this for a long time, you have been the police chief in new orleans and you worked in new orleans for 28 years and now you have been in baltimore for two years, how long before things like this can show results? commissioner harrison: we have to do a deep dive and look at every single person becoming contact with -- person we come in contact with. we can offer them these wraparound surfaces -- services and put them on a path.
for every person that accepts our health, that is one less perpetrator. i think we begin to quantify that person by person as a person who did not get shot or killed or who did not commit a shooting or murder. you begin to see small victories within that first year, but over time, and the mayor's plan is a comprehensive long-term plan. over time, we will see real reductions because we will have affected a number of people who are at risk, who otherwise would have been a victim or perpetrator. >> how has the debate over funding played out in baltimore? there were some calls for defunding the police and crimes associated with that. mayor scott considered cutting funding for the police. now that he is mayor, he is
enforcement and prosecutions. do you guys need the feds to help? is the state attorney enough in terms of prosecuting? what resources can the federal government provide you that you are not getting? commissioner harrison: we have a great relationship with our federal partners and our federal elected delegation. we have a great relationship. we meet every single one in my office about gun cases, future criminal cases, and the collaborative effort. the city has asked for more help from the federal government to bring in more agents to be on the ground working cases in baltimore. more prosecutions, more analysts, and more community engagement and funds to support community engagement and crime prevention and intervention. we have asked for more help and
we believe we are going to get that help. make no mistake, we have a great relationship and we are very successful. i was at a press conference yesterday with the u.s. attorney with a strikeforce that took down a major drug organization. that collaboration produces a lot of results. even though we are asking for more help, we think we have great relationships and those are the reason why we think they are going to say yes to the help. >> you said earlier in commenting on the city violence reduction plan, this is about breaking the cycle and culture of violence in our city rather than reliance on using police deployment alone. where do you think we need to rethink the role of policing? commissioner harrison: there has been conversation about what should police be doing, how do we reimagine policing. i have been a part of a couple
of large-scale partnerships where we did investigations that produce one report. we are about to produce another one, about reimagining police and what police should be doing. we agreed that police should have never taken on the role of dealing with mental illness or addiction and calls like that. we should be focusing on what we joined the department to do. to protect and serve and to make sure we can build relationships, prevent crime, apprehend people who commit that crime, especially violent crime, and build quality investigations for prosecution. we are reimagining police department and what policing is to make sure we are focusing on those things that are unique to policing. bringing in those who are better suited to handle other things that police were never meant to handle. we have been asked to be all things to all people and because of that, we are overwhelmed,
overloaded, and doing more than we should be doing. we are moving away from the warrior model to the guardian model. that does not mean there is never an opportunity for warrior performance because when people commit crimes, we have to pursue that and apprehend them and build quality cases. it is about making sure we are giving equal fair treatment to everybody in every community and not treating people differently in different communities. >> are you getting mental health people to scenes now? are you seeing any difference? is that working. i know it was in march that it was announced. commissioner harrison: it is still in its infancy stages.
we are deploying mental health professionals to some calls because there is no information or intelligence that violence exists, the potential to use deadly weapons as part of that call. we are now doing that. we hope to scale that up across the entire city. that is in the future, but we are doing it. it is too early to tell what the impact is because it is in its infancy stages. >> i don't know if that helps you in terms of trying to earn and regain public trust in baltimore and everywhere amidst the backdrop of the reputed deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement.
" the death of george floyd has shaken america to its core. this cannot build -- be what policing stands for." what are the biggest misconceptions that you want to correct? commissioner harrison: we are not experts in everything. we are trained to do what police officers are supposed to do. we are embarking on crisis intervention training to make sure that our officers take a course to better prepare them to handle those calls where there is a mental crisis. perhaps where it is not appropriate for a nonpolice person to respond. we are doing that like many other cities. the misconceptions, and we are now correcting, that police should be called for everything. we are working to minimize what police are called for so we can be reserved for preventing crime , apprehending people who commit crime, engaging in community
policing. having the free time to engage with members of our community to build those relationships. i say this to every single recruit class. build relationships, improve relationships, and repair broken relationships. that takes free time and officers have to have that time. we are reducing the workload, reducing the burden put on us to other professionals who should have been doing this all along so that we can have that time to be the police officers to the people, especially the people of baltimore are asking for. we want to see officers out of the cars, walking on foot, engaging with us. we want to get to know them. when that happens, information begins to flow to the police department about crime committed because there is trust. the police cared to do something about it and we have the ability to do something about it.
>> why do you think that police shootings have continued to rise despite a pandemic, protests, pushes for reform? last year was the most we have seen since 2015. have you thought about why this is continuing? there has been a lot of talk and training on de-escalation, but the number keeps going up. commissioner harrison: i think you hit the nail on the head. i cannot speak specifically about it, but there are variations in training. the reason is because there are variations in policy and protocols from department to department, city to city, state to state. when there are variations to training, officers will always resort back to training in a crisis situation. the focus is on de-escalation. the focus is also on the sanctity of life, the duty to
intervene. all of those things we did not always talk about, but we are talking about now. department's are building it into their policies, into their training. we think we will see a better outcome. but it really is about good training. different departments are trying different ways and officers are out there engaging, will sometimes be taxed with a split-second decision that they have to make and will not be able to think about all the alternatives to deadly force. the conversation is such now we are talking about what are those alternatives. can we slow down and think about it. there is one trend called integrating communications. slowing down, using space, distance, and medication to be able to de-escalate.
we took that training on years ago and of the department's are doing so also. it falls onto that. >> is it working in baltimore? do you have a sense that people are slowing down, that there are less shootings? commissioner harrison: i think it is. as i look at the number of police involved shootings that have happened here, we have what we call a critical incident video release policy where we release video within seven days. we can make the decision to release it within seven days. every single case we have seen on video and i have been able to see it before speaking to the press, speaking to the community and release those videos to the community. those incidents we have had in baltimore, we believe were necessary and unavoidable to some degree. i have seen less of those cases
where it seems like there could have been a better decision. that is where we are. every single thing we do is scrutinized by a federal judge. that lead to monitor is on the scene of every single police involved shooting. what we have seen this fewer shootings, what we have seen the ones we have appear to have been necessary. >> you mentioned an ongoing topic in baltimore. what have you learned? what are the big takeaways from the implementation of these consent decrees? commissioner harrison: it is a blueprint for reform. i had one in new orleans. we have one in baltimore. it is a blueprint. it is a heavy lift.
it is a difficult task. it is the catalyst that turns the department around and it is a total transformation of a department. before baltimore, consent decrees talked about a few things that needed to be reformed. here, it is a total transformation. it is a 100% makeover. it is the blueprint for that and the outcome is a better police department that engages with the humidity, that still enforces the law, but does it in a constitutional way. treats the community with dignity and respect and builds relationships where information can flow where we can build cases, hold people accountable, because the community is a part of all of our policy creation. the community is a part of our training and a part of everything we do. it was about turning this department around to make it the department people pay for, deserve, and respect. >> these consent decrees stopped
during the trump administration. the biden administration is signaling they want to start looking at them again. they announced one for phoenix the other day. are they a good idea? you have experience with them. do they work? commissioner harrison: it has turned the new orleans the police department around and it has turned the baltimore police department around. there are some cases where it is necessary. there are some cities where there may be a potential to get in front of it and what i tell chiefs all the time, i spoke with the chief in phoenix, louisville, minneapolis, about what they can do to get in front of it to build the systems of accountability that they would otherwise get in a consent decree that they can do on their own without a consent decree. i admonished chiefs and judges and executives to build
accountability that informs them about what is happening in a department and when it does happen, what needs to be does about it and what needs to be done when people fail to act. accountability through recruiting, hiring, training, policy building, all of those things are very important to make sure that departments are not just performing, but are well run, well-managed, well disciplined, and transparent. >> i got it. that is all the time we have. thank you, commissioner michael harrison, for speaking with me this morning. commissioner harrison: thank you for having me. >> thank you for joining us. you can always head to washingtonpostlive.com to register >> c-span is your unfiltered
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