Police officers in Baltimore are blaming the recent spike in gun violence in the city on “softer” policing in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death.

25-year-old Freddie died in April of 2015 shortly after a brutal arrest by Baltimore police left him hospitalized in a coma with a nearly severed spine. The now-infamous riots that erupted in the city following Freddie’s death placed an even larger wedge between residents and local police, with a mandatory city-wide curfew even being put in place at the height of the unrest.

Several Baltimore-area police officers are now coming forward to claim that the city has since seen a steady rise in gun violence and gang-related crime, and they believe the crack down on harsh policing is to blame. Speaking anonymously to CNN on Wednesday, the officers had this to say about the alleged change within the atmosphere of te police force since Freddie Gray’s death:

“The criminal element feels as though that we’re not going to run the risk of chasing them if they are armed with a gun. And they’re using this opportunity to settle old beefs, or scores, with people that they have conflict with.

I think the public really, really sees that they asked for a softer, less aggressive police department, and we have given them that, and now they are realizing that their way of thinking does not work.”

The officers also complained that many of their counterparts are now doing only the “bare minimum” of their jobs for fear of being fired if they police at their discretion.

Well, here’s a thought: How about police officers learn to improve their discernment to expand beyond shooting to kill at the first sign of a perceived threat with little to no confirmation?

The fact that these police officers feel that they can barely do their jobs if they can’t use excessive force speaks even more volumes to the problem in and of itself. Surely the residents of Baltimore or any community in our country aren’t advocating for police to stop doing their jobs all together, nor do we desire to live in a society where dangerous criminals receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist because officers are afraid of losing their jobs. But when did the rule of thumb for effective policing become “excessive force always or none at all?” Is there no middle ground where police officers use a combination of their moral judgment and training to fairly police our neighborhoods??

Unfortunately, with the way these officers are responding to lightly regulated policing, the answer seems to be a solid “no.”

Photo Credit: Washington Post

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