Ferguson, Gray, and Davis An Analysis of Recorded Crime Incidents and Arrests in Baltimore City, March 2010 through December 2015
Stephen L Morgan, PhD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS), School of Education (SOE)
The sometimes fraught relations between the Baltimore city community and its police officers intensified in April 2015, after the arrest of Freddie Gray and his subsequent death from injuries sustained while in police custody. Immediately following his funeral, an episode of street activity erupted – one that has been labeled on a continuum of terms from a riot to an uprising. This unrest triggered both a weeklong deployment of the National Guard and a night-time curfew.
A widely reported spike in gun violence and homicide emerged soon thereafter, alongside claims that the Baltimore Police Department had pulled back from routine police work in protest against a lack of support from the city’s leadership. The sitting police commissioner was replaced in July, and changes in police practice were introduced in subsequent months, some adopted to foster stronger cooperation with the community.
These events unfolded in Baltimore as a discussion on crime and policing was developing in the national press, sparked by the protests in Ferguson, Missouri but focused on the impact of dashcam and cellphone videos of police conduct. Debates over the existence of a so-called “Ferguson effect” continue to feature opposing positions on whether the new attention is a welcome spotlight on police misconduct with no consequences for underlying patterns of crime, or instead a constraint on appropriate policing that generates opportunistic crime.
For Baltimore, the effects of Freddie Gray’s arrest, and the unrest that followed, cannot be separated from the need to examine whether a preexisting Ferguson effect had already taken hold before April 2015. Likewise, any discussion of a Ferguson effect in Baltimore after April 2015 cannot be separated from a careful assessment of the consequences of the unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s arrest.