Baltimore scuttled its Gun Trace Task Force a couple of years ago when it became known just how bad things had gotten.
Yet violent crime there is still pretty bad, and a lot of that involves illegal guns. Some would say it’s fueled by them, but really, guns are the tool, not the motivator.
Still, when you’re a community that blames guns for so-called gun violence, one shouldn’t be shocked when the police start going after guns.
And they did. Baltimore established a new gun unit and now, things are heating up again.
After a corruption scandal led the Baltimore Police Department to disband its plainclothes gun squad in 2017, the embattled agency pledged to increase oversight while remaining focused on seizing illegal weapons and curbing rampant violence.
But several years later, two recent police shootings involving the department’s latest iteration of the specialized units have raised questions about how they are operating today.
Officials have not yet released body camera footage of the most recent shooting, which occurred Tuesday afternoon, but residents of the southwest Baltimore neighborhood expressed outrage over what they called an unnecessary loss of life. They said the deadly police shooting has drawn attention to an issue they have been complaining about for years: that certain officers are known in the majority-Black community for harassing residents and escalating otherwise peaceful encounters.
“They’re always jumping out on us for no reason. It happens all the time,” said Rashawn McNeil, who lives around the corner from the shooting scene. “Now, we see the consequences.”
McNeil, 25, said he heard a barrage of gunfire and questioned why police fired so many shots.
I’m going to jump in here and note that the reason police tend to fire so many shots is because shooting at a real, moving person isn’t like a paper target on the range. You’re going to miss a lot more in real life and even if you hit, it may not stop the person trying to kill you.
But McNeil doesn’t limit his own criticisms to just that.
Officials said officers on a District Action Team — squads focused on seizing illegal guns — were conducting proactive patrols when they approached a man who showed signs of being armed. The man, later identified as Hunter Jessup, started running and allegedly pointed a gun at police during the ensuing chase. Four officers opened fire and Jessup, 27, was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The following day, McNeil was hanging out with his brother and a friend in their usual spot outside an abandoned corner store. The group said DAT officers treat them with disdain and routinely initiate negative interactions. They said the officers are easily recognizable because of their unique attire. Neither fully uniformed nor plainclothes, they wear vests identifying them as police and patrol the city’s most violent neighborhoods.
Now, I’m not going to comment on the tactics there in Baltimore because we’re only getting one side of the story.
However, if people there are having a problem with yet another gun task force, then I have to ask them just what do they want?
If they want to make like guns are the problem, they shouldn’t be surprised when a task force supposedly dedicated to infringing on a constitutional right suddenly starts ignoring people’s rights. This is just how it’s going to go.
Especially somewhere like Baltimore that has such an issue with violent crime.
A task force like this is going to get the blame for shootings. Why aren’t they stopping them? Why aren’t they cracking down on illegal guns like they’re supposed to?
So, they start cracking down. Even if no one actually tells them to, they’re going to because that’s the mission.
That means Baltimore has a choice if they really want to deal with this particular issue. They can either accept that this is the inevitable result of treating rights as not mattering or they can stop trying to blame guns for the issues they’re having.
Otherwise, they’re just going to get more of the same.