It is not news to our readers that there is a significant degree of tension at present between law enforcement and the black community. Aside from the obvious racial issues, it is clear that there is a problem in many places with balancing the tension between crime prevention and respecting the constitutional rights of suspects. As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out, the tension is particularly strong in New York City, where there has been a recent increase in shootings and murders.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, it has been argued, has been somewhat contradictory in his law enforcement policy, cutting back on the use of a policing technique called “stop-and-frisk” while supporting law enforcement’s efforts to pursue lesser offenses in order to deter more serious offenses, and approach which critics say can have a disproportionate impact on those of lower socio-economic status.
Baltimore is no stranger to these issues. Local law enforcement here been criticized for aggressive policing tactics, even while shootings and murders are on the increase. Just one example: since the Freddie Gray incident in April, Baltimore police have been criticized for their use of “investigative stops,” a procedure that allows officers to stop and frisk suspects that appear to be dangerous.
Although Baltimore doesn’t face the exact same situation as New York City, the central issue does apply: that is, how can law enforcement agencies effectively fight crime while respecting the rights and safety of citizens and police officers.
In our next post, we’ll offer some comments on this issue from the perspective of criminal defense and look at why it is important to work with an experienced attorney when something goes wrong with a police investigation.