Report: Weaknesses in state's response to Baltimore unrest

State Emergency Operations Center relied on inaccurate info from media because it received few details from officials


Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Weaknesses in Maryland's response to last year's civil unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray included the inexperience of some emergency management staff and reliance on inaccurate information, according to a new state report.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency report, released Monday to The Baltimore Sun, said the rioting last spring "presented unique public safety challenges" and "many opportunities for improvement."

The report also said it found that the State Emergency Operations Center was relying on inaccurate information from media coverage during the riots because it received few details from official channels. It also discovered that there was a general "lack of understanding" about the various functions of the state operations center, particularly who was in charge of decision-making in some areas.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man from west Baltimore, was arrested April 12. Authorities have said he died a week afterward from a critical spinal injury he had suffered in a police van.

Clay Stamp, then MEMA's executive director, said the state's response wasn't perfect but that the issues highlighted in the report were "sub-notes to a great story — one of success." The MEMA report is the first to focus on the role of the state rather than the city or its police force. It also noted several strengths in the state's response, including use of social media to deliver information and its use of a virtual "Business Operations Center" to keep Baltimore business leaders apprised of developments.

"The state of Maryland performed in a strategic manner by leaning forward and leveraging resources within Maryland and the five states around Maryland in 36 hours," Stamp said.

MEMA Executive Director Russell Strickland said in a statement that the agency since April has "addressed gaps by improving our resource management processes and implementing new and enhanced training." He also said the state is "prepared to respond quickly and efficiently the next time" it needs to support a locality experiencing unrest.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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