Baltimore police chief calls for more ‘boots on the ground’ to handle crime wave
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Tuesday that he would like to see more “boots on the ground” and additional funding for his department amid a surge in violent crime in cities across the country.
During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Harrison noted that Baltimore like other big cities is seeing a spike in violence, with the Maryland city recording 18 homicides in the past 10 days alone.
The police chief said this has resulted from a “number of issues,” like gang violence and “retaliation from previous bad acts,” but that the city has seen a particular increase in “close acquaintance shootings and domestic violence shootings.”
Harrison, who said his department is roughly 230 officers short of its current budget, argued that his department is in severe need of more officers for “not just law enforcement,” but also to “build those relationships because we need the community’s help in helping us solve these murders so we can hold these bad actors accountable for terrorizing our community.”
His remarks come ahead of President Biden’s planned Wednesday address to discuss rising crime in U.S. cities over the last 18 months. He is also expected to unveil a comprehensive crime reduction strategy.
Last year, homicide rates rose about 25 percent nationally, with the murder rate in Atlanta rising more than 50 percent year-on-year as of May.
When asked by Tapper what he would like to hear from the president on Wednesday, Harrison said that the response to a surge in crime should be multifaceted.
“I would like to hear about more resources and actual boots on the ground in our big cities,” he said. “There’s always so much more to be done. Boots on the ground and a surge of agents in our city is what I’d like to hear.”
“Certainly, funding sources are always important, programmatic solutions are always important, we need all of it,” he said. “It’s not just one thing.”
The rise in crime comes as Democrats have long been accused of being “soft on crime,” with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) telling The Washington Post this week, “If you’re law enforcement, you’re going to be very cautious about doing your job when you see that the Democrats are never going to back you up.”
This charge against Democrats has ramped up in recent months amid growing calls from progressives to redistribute funding from law enforcement toward social services and community engagement programs.
However, the White House on Tuesday said that the administration does not believe Biden’s Wednesday address will come into conflict with ongoing negotiations over police reform legislation.
“Yes, there needs to be reforms of police systems across the country, the president is firm believer in that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “But there are also steps he can take as president of the United States to help address and hopefully reduce that crime.”