Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Wednesday that police must acknowledge “we are part of the problem” in fostering mistrust among the local community.
“The community needs to hear that,” he told CNN’s Evan Perez. “The community needs to hear from us that we haven’t been part of the solution, and now we have to evolve. Now we have to change.”
Mr. Batts said he was surprised to learn that six of his officers would be charged in the case of Freddie Gray, who died April 19 of a spinal injury he incurred while in police custody.
“And then my mind started going to, what is going to be the response in community?” he said. “My officers, how do I keep them engaged, how do I keep them focused on getting their job done as a whole?”
Mr. Batts argued that Baltimore police and law enforcement nationwide must build trust with the urban communities they serve, CNN reported.
“It’s not going to be an overnight thing,” he added.
The commissioner pointed out programs already in place, including one that allows inner-city children to play sports with police officers, CNN reported. He said he’d also like to launch a program modeled after one in Los Angeles that has police officers working inside housing complexes.
“It’s going to be a long journey,” he told CNN. “This isn’t going to be a short journey. You can see the distrust that’s out there, and we have to find inroads to sit down with people — to show care, to show empathy.”