In wake of Baltimore riots, Nutter urges focus on underlying issues

 Baltimore residents clean streets as law enforcement officers stand guard Tuesday in the aftermath of rioting following Monday's funeral of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Baltimore residents clean streets as law enforcement officers stand guard Tuesday in the aftermath of rioting following Monday's funeral of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

As calm returns to Baltimore after a night of rioting and looting, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is urging that the conversation shift to issues that underlie the unrest.

Nutter appeared on CNN Tuesday to praise Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for being, as he put it, a stand-up leader in the face of criticism. Nutter said the heat Rawlings-Blake has drawn regarding her response to the protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a man in police custody, is unfair. 

“Commentators don’t know how to run a city because they’re not mayors of cities,” Nutter said on the network. 

In Philadelphia after his TV appearance, Nutter said many observers of the events in Baltimore are on edge. Nonetheless, it’s not the right time to assign blame, he said. 

Instead, Nutter called for more attention to systemic problems. 

“Good people want good policing. Good officers need good people out in the community. Something is broken,” Nutter said. “We need to fix that — and stay focused on that — as opposed to who called who when? Did you have the right people over here? How many folks did you have? When did you make the decision? All that. I don’t know where that’s going.” 

Nutter said Baltimore is a city in crisis and its leaders deserve wide support. 

The city hasn’t sent any of its own officers to Baltimore. Police officials say it’s because the department hasn’t yet been asked.

“There are certainly a significant number of resources on the ground there already. If we get a formal request, then we will do our best to access what that request is. How can we possibly be helpful?” Nutter said. “But it is certainly not our role to jump into a situation where you have at least four different state and local agencies.”

Pennsylvania State police on Wednesday said it is sending 300 troopers to assist the 2,000 National Guard troops and police from various states working together to quell the disorder in Baltimore. The Pennsylvania troopers are expected to be sent later this week. The state of Maryland will reimburse Pennsylvania for the work.   

Nutter said the rioters in Baltimore were irresponsible and disconnected from the Freddie Gray case. He said the episode has put Philadelphia leaders on high alert. 

“You never know when something may occur,” he said. “So you try to stay in touch with community activists, our religious community and other leaders who are all engaged in this effort to make sure that whether it’s Philadelphia, or some other place, that we don’t see these kind of incidents.”

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