BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Baltimore City's Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday accused the Mayor and Police Commissioner of being "out of touch," "ineffective," and playing a "Jedi mind trick" on citizens.
The remarks were released in a statement in response to a Monday news conference, in which City leadership discussed current and future crime reduction strategies.
During the conference, Mayor Jack Young said the City would focus on five specific areas to fight crime; prevention, intervention, enforcement, re-entry, and rehabilitation.
The Mayor said the City will also continue to utilize grant money for youth programs and expand partnerships with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Union leaders say the strategy is an old one that's already been used in the past.
"The idea for a citywide coordination to assist in the fight on crime is not new and has been promoted by law enforcement experts and others for years. It's not rocket science, and to see it announced as though a light bulb suddenly went off in the minds of both the Mayor and Police Commissioner is terribly disconcerting," the union said.
During the conference, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was also asked about the union's often and recent criticism of his leadership.
"I meet with supervisors and members of our department constantly, and I think what you're hearing is the sentiment of FOP leadership, not the sentiment of the rank and file. I think the men and women support the reform efforts because they want their department and we want our department to be a great department. They welcome the improvements, they welcome the new technology, they welcome the accountability and transparency, and so as I meet with the members of our department, I see acceptance and willingness to make our department a great department,"Harrison said.
In their statement, the FOP hit back saying officers fear retribution if they tell Harrison how they really feel.
"We can say without question, that claim is patently untrue. It's laughable when the Police Commissioner says things like the men and women of the department tell him the opposite of what you hear from FOP leadership. Commissioner Harrison, the rank and file know this is a paramilitary organization and fear retribution if they tell you exactly how they feel about your crime fight. We hear the truth from them, and it's contrary to your claims of support,"said the FOP.
The union also highlighted departmental staffing shortages, saying "detectives handling caseloads that would make law enforcement experts gasp if they knew the volume."
In a year where the City has set a per capita record of 347 murders, the department's homicide unit has a clearance rate of only 32%.
Harrison on Monday said additional detectives have been transferred to the unit and will receive training on "competency" and caseload management.
Meanwhile, the shortage of homicide detectives is just one small part of the problem.
Patrol also remains hundreds of officers short, and there's no fix in sight.
The FOP claims the department can't recruit or retain its own officers for many reasons including "the unrealistic expectations of the Consent Decree, and the consistent fear of unwarranted prosecution against [their] members."
Currently the FOP says there's a deficit of 25 officers when it comes to the number hired versus the number resigning or retiring.
On Tuesday, Harrison responded to the FOP's comments by saying “I remain focused on providing the leadership that the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department and the residents of Baltimore need and deserve.”
Watch Monday's entire press conference with Young and Harrison below.
The FOP's full statement can be read below.