Daily Reformer: The Baltimore cautionary tale


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Minneapolis shooting victims are adding up — more than 90 since May 26, including at least 12 in Uptown Saturday night. 

The Strib reported on the Uptown shooting: 

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the carnage “tragic and senseless” and said the FBI and state agencies will assist his department as it deals with the recent surge in shootings around the city.

To understand this phenomenon, I recommend this 2019 piece by Alec MacGillis aptly titled “The tragedy of Baltimore.” 

The Freddie Gray killing in the back of a police van led to a wave of protests and the eventual arrest of officers involved in the incident. They were all acquitted or had charges dropped. 

What’s followed has been a spike in murders and other violent crime, compounded by municipal and political dysfunction. 

The (police) department’s officers responded swiftly, by doing nothing. In Baltimore it came to be known as “the pullback”: a monthslong retreat from policing, a protest that was at once undeclared and unmistakably deliberate — encouraged, some top officials in the department at the time believe, by the local police union. Many officers responded to calls for service but refused to undertake any “officer-initiated” action. Cruisers rolled by trouble spots without stopping or didn’t roll by at all. Compounding the situation, some of the officers hospitalized in the riot remained out on medical leave. Arrests plunged by more than half from the same month a year before. The head of the police union, Lt. Gene Ryan, called the pullback justifiable: “Officers may be second-guessing themselves,” he told The Sun. “Questioning, if I make this stop or this arrest, will I be prosecuted?”

The results are not hard to imagine: 

In the years that followed, Baltimore, by most standards, became a worse place. In 2017, it recorded 342 murders — its highest per-capita rate ever, more than double Chicago’s, far higher than any other city of 500,000 or more residents and, astonishingly, a larger absolute number of killings than in New York, a city 14 times as populous. Other elected officials, from the governor to the mayor to the state’s attorney, struggled to respond to the rise in disorder, leaving residents with the unsettling feeling that there was no one in charge. With every passing year, it was getting harder to see what gains, exactly, were delivered by the uprising.

Minneapolis is not Baltimore, but if you annualize the current rate of shootings here, you’re talking about more than 1,000 per year here.

No thank you.

In the Reformer this morning, Ricardo Lopez rounds up the Legislature’s failure to act on police reform last week with a smart piece about why it’s not totally surprising that with the world watching we’re doing nothing. The serious racial inequities here are plain to see, but only if you’re willing to look.   

We’re also running a stunning piece from ProPublica that shows through emails they obtained how local health officials across the country were overmatched by meat processing companies that often sought to conceal the extent of COVID-19 outbreaks and/or use their political influence to avoid slowing down the line or shutting down. 

Dr. Dimitri Drekonja, a physician and professor of medicine at the U, has a very straightforward commentary in the Strib that lays it out clearly: The United States COVID-19 response has been a failure. Full stop. Our daily infection rate has plateaued at an unacceptably high rate and on a per capita basis is 12 times that of Germany.  

In a big time scoop, Liz Sawyer reports that Ramsey County corrections officers of color say they were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused in the murder of George Floyd. 

Correspond: [email protected] 

Have a great day all. JPC

J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.