by Tom Nolan, Associate Professor of Criminology, Merrimack College; 27-year veteran of Boston Police Department
If there is one constant, predictable, and never-ending narrative that I’ve been hearing about policing since I began my career in law enforcement in 1978, it’s that “policing is not like it used to be”; “I’ve never seen it this bad”; “policing will never be the same”; “the bad guys are going to take over.” According to The Baltimore Sun, “Lt. Victor Gearhart, a 33-year veteran who works in the Southern District, said residents with complaints about police 'are going to get the police force they want, and God help them.'"
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to charge six Baltimore police officers criminally in the death of Freddie Gray has resulted in an all too familiar trope: The cops are outraged at this obvious and insulting injustice and are now “fearful” and “dejected” — afraid to do their jobs, lest they too fall victim to the whim and capriciousness of prosecutorial discretion. And “the bad guys are going to take advantage” of the consequences of Mosby’s decision: A work slowdown. Please.
The high ranking Baltimore police officers quoted in The Baltimore Sun piece, “Violence surges as Baltimore police officers feel hesitant,” all of whom have decades of law enforcement experience, should clearly know better than to make such inflammatory, irresponsible, and incendiary remarks about police officers being afraid or reluctant to do their jobs out of a fear of being prosecuted. I have had the privilege of working with thousands of police officers in my years in law enforcement and I have never met one who would fail to do what was needed in a situation requiring law enforcement intervention out of a fear of being criminally prosecuted for doing the right thing. It doesn’t happen in Boston, and it has not, does not, and will not happen in Baltimore.