Morgan State University Investigates Baltimore Citizens’ Relationship to City Police

In April 2015, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man was arrested and died in police custody from spinal cord injuries suffered while riding unrestrained in the back of a police van. Protests and civil unrest occurred in the city and the National Guard was called in to restore order. Six police officers were charged in the case. The trail of one officer ended in a mistrial. Three others were acquitted and charges against the other officers were dropped.

The federal government launched an investigation of the police department. In a follow-up to a 2017 Consent Decree between the U.S. Department of Justice, the City of Baltimore, and the Baltimore City Police Department, Morgan State University’s Institute for Urban Research was commissioned to conduct a preliminary survey to evaluate community sentiment related to local law enforcement.

Natasha C. Pratt-Harris, an associate professor and Criminal Justice Program coordinator of Morgan’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology/Criminal Justice, served as the principal investigator, directing a research team of coordinators and interviewers. “Making a true assessment of the community’s perceptions of and experiences with the Baltimore City Police Department required that our research team engage citizens by knocking on doors, approaching people on the street and collecting data by interviewing participants using an online survey,” said Dr. Pratt-Harris.

The survey was conducted between September 2018 and June 2019 and the results were recently published in the Community’s Experiences and Perceptions of the Baltimore City Police Survey Report.

The results showed that:

* The majority of participants disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that the Baltimore Police Department effectively reduces crime and keeps people safe.
* Participants consistently reported that the police department did not show respect toward civilians.
* A majority of participants reported that they had observed BPD engaging in racial profiling, using excessive force, and using verbally abusive language toward civilians.
* A majority of participants disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that BPD officers are effectively held accountable for misconduct.

Dr. Pratt-Harris is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, where she majored in journalism and criminal justice. She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Baltimore and a Ph.D. in sociology from Howard University in Washington. D.C.

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