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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

Longtime police spokespeople heading back to the streets

Police commissioners have come and gone in Baltimore over the past decade - five, to be precise - but there's been one consistent face of the Police Department over the past 10 years: spokespeople Donny Moses and Nicole Monroe.

On Friday, Moses and Monroe will serve their last day in the public affairs office, opting to return to street work. Moses, a longtime drug cop, will move to the warrant task force, while Monroe, a former shooting detective, will begin doing work with witnesses.

Moses in particular has often been at the forefront of much of the agency's public relations efforts. Perhaps his most well-remembered turn was as the "star" of the "Keep Talking" video, made in response to the "Stop Snitching" tape that cast national attention on Baltimore as a city where helping police was strictly forbidden.

The purpose of the tape, police said then, was to is to "let the criminals know that we're in charge, and to let the good people know we're winning the fight."

"The men and women of the Baltimore Police Department would like to thank the producers of the Stop Snitching video. In case you didn't know, you've made Baltimore a safer city," Moses said in the video. It then showed the images of men arrested as a result of being implicated through the "Snitching" video.

Moses said that he recognized many of the "Snitching" crew from his drug work. "For the most part, they were all westsiders - Edmondson Avenue, Lanvale and Payson. That's where they hung and did their dirt," Moses said. "Since I was the one who could relate them and knew them, that kind of thrust me in the spotlight." 

He had moved to public affairs in January 2003, after working shooting scenes as a district detective. In that job, he knew the effects of witness intimidation and street justice. "The victims didn't want my help," he said. "You've got an unwritten street policy that 'I'll take care of this myself.' It was frustrating."

Moses has a college degree in mass communications and went for the public affairs opening when he saw it. 

The city's public affairs office is led by a civilian spokesperson, but has sworn members who appear on camera and speak to reporters about most incidents. As a spokesman, Moses said he got recognized just about everywhere. "You're never off," he said. "When you're in church or at the corner store, you're answering questions about the police department. It's a big responsibility, but I considered it a privilege."

Both Moses and Monroe are nearing the point in their careers where they are eligible to retire, and Monroe said they had joked about "going out with our boots on." Monroe, who also worked patrol and drugs in addition to shootings, has been in the public affairs office since 2002.

"I would see the spokesperson on the news from time to time, and always said, 'I hope one day I get to to do what he does,'" she said. "That was something I always thought was great about the Police Department - that aside from being an officer there were so many different functions and jobs within this one agency."

She said she enjoyed being part of shaping the agency's message and trying to get good news stories out to the public. She used friends and family as a sounding board to figure out how people were reacting to news, and how the agency could better explain itself. 

Monroe is moving to the witness relocation unit. With the 10th anniversary approaching of the firebombing that killed the Dawson family in East Baltimore - another stark reminder of the city's challenges with getting people to cooperate with police - she wants to help those who help the police do their job.

"I'm happy to have the opportunity to help people stand up to the criminal element without compromising their safety," Monroe said. 

jfenton@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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