Baltimore's police union this week offered differing accounts for why violent crime has spiked in the wake of six officers being indicted in the homicide of Freddie Gray.
Police statistics show Baltimore officers have made far fewer arrests in the weeks since the charges were filed, raising questions about whether they are engaged in a work slowdown as a result of the indictment.
There have been 38 homicides in Baltimore in the past 28 days, making May the city's most violent month in 15 years, the Associated Press reported. Police statistics show there have been 111 homicides in the first five months of 2015 — 32 more than in the same period last year.
The spike in violence comes in the wake of protests demanding justice for Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering spinal injuries while in police custody. Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted six police officers involved in Gray's arrest on criminal charges ranging from second-degree murder to manslaughter.
On Tuesday, the union's president went on the defensive, insisting officers were "doing their jobs" normally and were not engaged in a work slowdown — a labor organizing technique in which workers do less of their job to protest unfair or unsafe conditions.
"It's not because our officers not working," Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told ABC. "They are out there on the streets, they are doing their jobs."
On Thursday, however, the union issued a new statement blaming the crime spike on anti-police sentiment, saying officers are "afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs."
"The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest," Ryan said in the statement. "Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty."
Activists criticized the union's statements, calling them inflammatory and selfish.
"The Baltimore City Police will do and say anything to avoid accountability," DeRay McKesson, a civil rights activist, told BuzzFeed News. "With the latest [Fraternal Order of Police] statement, Baltimore police aim to instill fear into citizens to gain support. Today, Baltimore police reminded us that they aim only to protect and serve their selfish interests and not the interests of public safety or the public good."
Clapp Communications, the public relations firm that now represents the Fraternal Order of Police, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that Ryan was not available for an interview.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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